Detroit Gang Violence Lawyer
Detroit and its surrounding suburbs have long been notorious for gang violence. For this reason, municipal, state, and federal law enforcement agencies spare no expense in hunting down suspected gang members. Clearing the streets of gang members may be in the public’s best interest, but many innocent people get swept into the criminal justice system because of their loose connection with a gang, and sometimes just for living in the wrong neighborhood.
If you’ve been accused of being a gang member or committing a crime as part of a gang-related scheme, you are at risk of severe penalties. From jail time to fines, to a permanent entry on your criminal record that can limit your employment options in the future, a conviction for gang violence can turn your life upside down. For this reason, you should retain the services of a skilled and experienced Detroit criminal defense lawyer to defend against your charges.
How Does Michigan Law Define Gangs?
Under Michigan law, a gang can be any organization or association of five people or more that can be identified by the following characteristics:
- A shared sign, symbol, protocol, geographical area, or method of expressing membership
- An identifiable command structure
- Criteria for membership
Under this definition, anything from a group of rebellious teenagers to an association of hardened career criminals may be considered as a gang for the purposes of a state prosecution. This is important because anyone who commits a crime and meets the definition of a gang member may face additional criminal penalties.
What Criminal Penalties Apply to Gang Members?
The laws of Michigan contain numerous provisions that concern gang membership and activities. Some of the most common include:
- Committing a felony on behalf of a gang—According to Michigan Penal Code section 750.411u, if there’s evidence that you are a gang member and that you committed a felony that is in any way related to your gang, you may face a twenty-year prison sentence. This sentence applies in addition to whatever sentence you may receive for the underlying felony.
- Recruiting gang members—Michigan Penal Code section 750.411v makes it illegal to recruit gang members or to coerce someone into participating in a gang-related felony. A conviction may result in a maximum sentence of 5 years imprisonment and a $5,000 fine
- Retaining membership through threats—The same statute also prohibits threatening or punishing gang members or their relatives to keep them from leaving the gang. This felony carries a maximum sentence of 20 years of prison time and $20,000 in fines.
Federal Prosecutors Use Anti-Mafia Laws to Target Street Gangs
In 2014, a dozen members of a violent Flint street gang known as the Howard Boys were arrested after a concerted effort by local, state, and federal law enforcement. They were not prosecuted under Michigan’s gang laws. Instead, federal prosecutors brought charges under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO). Since then, more and more suspected gang members in Michigan have been facing federal gang charges.
Signed into law in 1970 by President Nixon, RICO was originally intended to assist in the prosecution of national criminal organizations such as the mafia. But in recent years, the legislation has proven its usefulness in the prosecution of street gangs. RICO is useful to prosecutors because it casts a wide net: anyone from street soldiers to shot callers may be prosecuted in the same case, along with anyone who may have conspired—but did not commit—any criminal activity.
Specifically, federal prosecutors can charge people with violating RICO when they commit two or more of the following infractions within a ten-year period as part of a criminal enterprise or gang:
- Violating state laws against gambling, drug trafficking, murder, arson, kidnapping, bribery, extortion, robbery, or dealing in obscene material
- Violating federal laws against counterfeiting, murder-for-hire, bribery, theft, fraud, embezzlement, dealing in obscene materials, slavery, obstruction of justice, racketeering, money laundering, or gambling
- Embezzling union funds
- Committing fraud in relation to securities or bankruptcy
- Practicing criminal copyright infringement
- Money laundering
- Assisting aliens to enter the country illegally and profiting from it
- Committing acts of terrorism
If convicted, you will receive a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and $25,000 in fines for each racketeering charge. Furthermore, you will have to pay back any illegally obtained gains or any business interests received through the racketeering activity.
Defending Against Gang Violence Charges
Whether you’re facing charges under federal or state law for your alleged involvement with a gang, you will need a skilled and dedicated Michigan criminal defense lawyer by your side to obtain a positive case outcome. It may be possible to defend your case using any of the following strategies:
- Suppressing the prosecutor’s evidence—If the police obtained evidence by violating your rights, the prosecutor cannot use that evidence against you at trial. But this process isn’t automatic—your lawyer must file a motion to suppress to get the illegal evidence excluded. For example, if the police searched your home or office without a valid search warrant, emergency circumstances, or your consent, any incriminating evidence they found may be removed from the case.
- Proving Reasonable doubt—To obtain a conviction for gang violence, the prosecutor must prove every element of the case beyond a reasonable doubt. A skilled defense lawyer will be able to reinterpret the prosecutor’s evidence and challenge his or witnesses to show that there is doubt as to whether you are actually a gang member, whether you committed a violent crime, and whether the commission of the crime was related to your alleged gang membership.
- Negotiating a plea deal—When the prosecutor’s evidence is so strong that a victory at trial seems unlikely, it may be in your best interest to save the expense of going to trial and to accept a plea agreement instead. This means that you will plead guilty, and in exchange, you will receive the guarantee of a lenient sentence or a conviction for a less serious charge. The better your lawyer’s negotiating skills, the better the plea deal you will receive.
Every case is different, so you should consult with a knowledgeable attorney to learn more about your options. If you are facing charges for alleged gang violence, call the Davis Law Group today at for a free and confidential consultation of your case.