Defending Against Gang Allegations
When is a Crime Committed for the Benefit or in Association with a Criminal Street Gang? See Penal Code Section 186.22.
Criminal Street Gangs are infiltrating all aspects of our society. Law Enforcement has dedicated resources for the past several decades to investigate and arrest individuals involved in the culture of Street Gangs. Gangs tend to align themselves by race, though representing the diversity of California, it is not uncommon for some members of a particular street gang to be from different racial backgrounds than the other members of their gang.
Locally, Sacramento and Northern California are home to several different Street Gangs, including but not limited to Hispanic Gangs, traditionally divided by geography of California. Those affiliated with communities North of Bakersfield are often referred to as Notenos, which is Spanish for Northernors. Those gangs affiliated with communities South of Bakersfield are often referred to Southernors or Surenos.
Likewise, other racial gangs exist such as the traditional African American Street Gangs known as Bloods and Crips. Sacramento and her surrounding communities also have a large population of Hmong families who have descended from families transplanted at the end of the Vietnam War to Sacramento due to the assistance provided by those families to US Troops and their resulting high risk for danger if they remained in their native lands.
Each of these larger gangs can, and often do have their own subsets. These subsets or "clicks" are often created because of tension within larger groups or because of more specific territories, such as particular streets or neighborhoods.
Michael Wise has been invited to speak frequently regarding Criminal Street Gangs, Proposition 21, the STEP Act and the culture of Gang Members. Defense Attorney Michael Wise has prosecuted and defended members of several different criminal street gangs, including Nortenos and Surenos, Black Gangs and South East Asian Street Gangs, Hmong Gangs and Laotian Gangs.
It is not uncommon for prosecutors to allege a gang motive to a particular crime. The benefit to the Government in doing so is very substantial. Initially, it allows the Prosecutor to provide a Motive for what might otherwise seem like a random act of violence. However, more importantly, it allows the Prosecutor to proffer and Expert Witness on Gangs who is usually an investigating police officer or Detective. It is not dificult for a Detective to qualify as an Expert Witness in Criminal Street Gangs due to their significant training and daily hands on experience in dealing with young men and women who may be involved in the gang culture.
Once the Detective is qualified as a Criminal Street Gang Expert, he or she is allowed to rely on evidence which would not otherwise be admitted to the jury in order to tender an opinion regarding the gang culture, benefit to the gang, etc. This evidence can and often does include conduct committed by other people who the Defendant may not even be acquainted with.
Oftentimes, Law Enforcement can give too much weight to historical tensions between groups or colors or contacts previously noted by patrol officers or Probation. Officers often don't realize the social atmosphere for kids raised in certain neighborhoods and don't always make the distinction between an adolescent who is wearing colors or making friends as a means of survival in a neighborhood as compared to someone who is deeply involved in the Gang Lifestyle.
Michael Wise, Criminal Defense Attorney has tried several gang cases over the years. Due to his experience as a gang criminal attorney, both as a Prosecutor and as a Defense Attorney, Mr. Wise understands the Gang Culture and the pressures adolescents face. He has successfully educated jurors on several occasions and explained why the Prosecutor's theory is incorrect. Mr. Wise often retains or seeks the appointment of a Gang Expert to assist in his efforts to counter act the arguments of the Government. If you or someone you know is fighting a Gang Case, do not hesitate to contact Wise Law Group, PC for a free consultation.