Criminal Defense of Street Gang Activity or Membership
The Mara Salvatrucha gang, MS-13, is an international gang comprised mostly of Central American members, in particular, El Salvadorans. The gang has a strong presence in Virginia and has been getting a lot of media attention recently because of the political atmosphere around criminal illegal immigrants. Dcw50, a Virginia television station, recently reported on the murder of a 15-year-old girl who was violently killed by MS-13 gang members. While the MS-13 is an established and well-known gang, it does not take a huge organizational structure for a group committing violent crimes to be considered a gang.
Definition of a Street Gang
According to Virginia law, a criminal street gang must meet the following requirements to be considered as such: It must consist of three or more members who are working together and one of its primary goals is the commission of one or more criminal activities. Furthermore, the members must have an identifiable name, sign, or symbol, according to Virginia statute § 18.2-46.1. Lastly, the members of the gang, either individually or collectively, must have committed or attempted to commit at least two predicate criminal acts, one being a violent act.
Felony Punishments for Involvement in Street Gang Crimes and Membership
According to Virginia statute 18.2-46.2, simply being involved in criminal street gang activity and willfully participating in a predicate crime for the benefit of the gang is a crime. A predicate crime is an act that is comprised of certain elements of more serious crimes, usually performed for the benefit of another offense. In Virginia, being involved in gang activity is known as a wobbler crime and is punishable either as a felony or misdemeanor. If charged as a Class 5 felony, the term of imprisonment can be one to 10 years. If charged as a Class A misdemeanor, the incarceration sentence can be up to 12 months in jail. If a gang member is over the age of 18 and knows or has reason to know that the gang consists of one or more members who are underage (under 18), then the charge becomes a Class 4 felony, which is punishable by two to 10 years of imprisonment and a fine of up to $100,000. Those who are punished for gang activity may also face separate charges for the individual criminal acts they allegedly committed.
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Recruiting, soliciting, inviting, or encouraging another person to participate in or become a member of a gang is a Class 1 misdemeanor. However, if an adult recruits or attempts to recruit a minor, the offense is raised to a Class 6 felony. Gangs often recruit members at a young age and can be very persuasive. If you are involved in alleged gang activity, have been charged with recruiting others, or have been charged with a predicate crime or other offense, call the Leesburg, Virginia attorneys of Simms Showers, LLP today at 703-997-782. We are prepared to help you today.