Authorities take the investigation and punishment of gang violence in Michigan very seriously. While it’s in the public’s best interest for the government to take a strong stance against gangs, overzealous prosecutors often target innocent people who may only have a loose connection to a gang, or who might just live in the wrong neighborhood.
If you’ve been charged with a gang-related crime, or even if you believe that you may be under investigation for gang activities, you should call an experienced criminal attorney as soon as possible. The earlier your lawyer can begin work on your case, the better chance he or she will have of building a good defense for you.
Michigan criminal defense lawyer Maurice Davis has worked as both a prosecutor and a defense attorney, which means he knows how prosecutors tend to build their cases—and how to defeat them. Regardless of your circumstances, the Davis Law Group will aggressively defend your case.
Penalties for a Gang Violence in Michigan
Michigan law defines a gang as an ongoing organization, association, or group of five or more people, other than a nonprofit organization, that identifies itself by all of the following:
- A unifying mark, manner, protocol, or method of expressing membership, including a common name, sign or symbol, means of recognition, or belonging to a geographic area or location
- A clear leadership or command structure
- Defined membership criteria
State law gives prosecutors the ability to file additional charges against people who have committed suspected offenses related to gang activity or gang violence in Michigan. Michigan statute §750.411u states that if a gang associate or member commits or attempts to commit a felony, and the gang is the motive, means, or opportunity of committing the felony, the member or associate can face a sentence of up to 20 years.
A court can hand down this sentence in addition to a sentence for the underlying felony. This means that if you commit a theft on behalf of a gang, you could face sentences for the theft and your gang membership.
Following a recent Michigan Supreme Court ruling, sentencing judges are no longer required to strictly follow the penalties provided for within the state’s criminal code. Michigan criminal defense lawyer Maurice Davis can explain what this might mean for your case.
It’s Illegal to Recruit Gang Members or to Threaten Them if They Quit
Michigan statute §750.411v concerns gang recruitment, coercing others to assist in a gang-related felony, and threatening members to prevent them from leaving the gang.
The statute prohibits anyone from causing, encouraging, recruiting, or coercing another person to join a gang or to help a gang commit a felony. The penalty for committing this felony can be as high as 5 years of imprisonment and/or a fine of $5,000.
It is also illegal to threaten a gang member or a member’s relative in order to deter the member from leaving the gang. If he or she has already left the gang, it’s a crime to punish the member or a relative for leaving. The penalty for committing this felony can include up to 20 years in prison and/or a fine of up to $20,000. This sentence can be added to another sentence received for a crime or felony committed along with the violation of this statute.
Finally, Michigan statute §722.752 seeks to protect teenagers from gang violence or from joining gangs. The statute makes it illegal for anyone under 16 years old to loiter in the street or another public area between the hours of midnight and 6:00 a.m. — unless a guardian is present or the minor is running an errand for the guardian.
Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act
In 1970, President Nixon signed into law the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO), which was primarily a means of prosecuting the mafia. More recently, federal prosecutors have used this law to target gangs. For example, this year the federal government successfully convicted several members of a notorious Flint, Michigan gang under RICO.
RICO provides that a person who commits at least two acts of racketeering activity within a 10-year period can be charged with racketeering if the acts were related to an “enterprise,” which may include a gang.
The penalty for each federal racketeering count can reach $25,000 and a sentence of 20 years in prison. Additionally, the person convicted must give up all ill-gotten gains and any interest in a business gained through a pattern of racketeering activity.
According to 18 U.S.C. §1961, racketeering can include any of the following:
- Violating state statutes prohibiting gambling, murder, kidnapping, extortion, arson, robbery, bribery, dealing in obscene material, or drug trafficking
- Committing bribery, counterfeiting, theft, embezzlement, fraud, dealing in obscene materials, obstruction of justice, slavery, racketeering, gambling, money laundering, commission of murder-for-hire, as defined within the Federal criminal code
- Embezzling union funds
- Committing bankruptcy or securities fraud
- Engaging in criminal copyright infringement
- Laundering money
- Enabling or helping aliens to enter the country illegally for financial gain
- Committing any act of terror
How a Michigan Criminal Defense Lawyer Can Help
If you’ve been charged with a gang-related offense, you could face a lengthy prison sentence and heavy fines. Fortunately, a skilled Michigan criminal defense attorney may be able to apply one or more defenses to your case, which can include:
- Requesting that the court order the removal of evidence against you when it was obtained illegally or without a proper warrant
- Objecting to the prosecution’s evidence against you if it violates the rules of evidence or procedure
- Challenging the constitutionality of your arrest, detention, or interrogation by the police
- Showing that the facts of the case do not support the application of the charged crimes
- Demonstrating that you did not commit the acts described in the charges
- Asking for a lenient sentence on the basis of any mitigating factors applying to your case
If you are facing gang charges, you can call the Davis Law Group today at (313) 818-3238 for a free and confidential consultation on your case.