Enhancements for Gang Activity

Gang violence is a state-wide issue in Florida. The idea of groups of radical individuals coming together to commit crimes against rival gangs and innocent people terrifies the masses. In response to the rise in gang violence, lawmakers across the state came together to discuss a way to deter gang-related crimes. What resulted was sentencing enhancements for gang activity.

Florida Statute § 874.04 explains enhanced penalties for gang-related offenses:

“Upon a finding by the factfinder that the defendant committed the charged offense for the purpose of benefiting, promoting, or furthering the interests of a criminal gang, the penalty for any felony or misdemeanor, or any delinquent act or violation of law which would be a felony or misdemeanor if committed by an adult, may be enhanced.”

In layman’s terms, anyone who commits a crime to the benefit of a gang will have their criminal charges and penalties enhanced. Such enhancements can easily turn a misdemeanor into a felony charge even for first-time offenders. The Orlando criminal defense attorneys at The Umansky Law Firm can help explain your legal options for your case and serve as your representation throughout the process.

Florida Sentencing Enhancements for Gang Activity

Sentencing enhancements for gang activity effectively boost a crime to the next degree of seriousness. In Florida, that means:

  • A second-degree misdemeanor can be charged as a first-degree misdemeanor
  • A first-degree misdemeanor can be charged as a third-degree felony
  • A third-degree felony can be charged as a second-degree felony
  • A second-degree felony can be charged as a first-degree felony
  • A first-degree felony can be charged as a life felony

These enhancements can quickly turn a crime that is punishable by a maximum of 5 years to one that can land you in prison for up to 15 years. Given law enforcement’s obsession with limiting and interrupting gang activity, they’ll go to great lengths to prove that an individual is a gang member, even when the alleged criminal has no such affiliations.

How the State Proves Gang Affiliation

While law enforcement may feel as if it’s reasonable to apply sentencing enhancements for anyone with gang-affiliated friends or family members, they have guidelines to follow. The U.S. Department of Justice provides a Gang Prosecution Manual that requires prosecutors to have proper documentation of gang affiliation.

Some of the most common things they’ll use to prove that an alleged criminal is a gang member include:

  • Police reports
  • Parole records
  • Probation records
  • Graffiti
  • Tattoos
  • Clothing
  • Photos with known gang members
  • Court adjudications

They may also refer to local databases that catalog all known gang members in the area.

Get Legal Help Mitigating Your Criminal Charges

Proving gang affiliation cannot only affect the charges you face for the case at hand, but it might also link you to previous crimes that have gone unsolved. Ensure that you are not unfairly prosecuted by securing the legal services of a seasoned criminal defense attorney dedicated to protecting your best interests.

The Orlando criminal defense lawyers at The Umansky Law Firm have over 100 years of combined experience and regularly use their legal knowledge to the benefit of those facing serious criminal charges. With a team of former prosecutors on the state and local level, we have key insight on how the State will approach your case.

As members of the Florida Justice Association and National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, we have the legal know-how to manage your case. Allow us to apply our deep-rooted passion for justice to your benefit. Contact us today at 407-228-3838 for a free case evaluation.