• Criminal Defense of Gang-Related Crimes in St. Petersburg, Florida

Criminal Defense of Gang-Related Crimes in St. Petersburg, Florida

Florida law enforcement and prosecutors–particularly in Pinellas County–take gang-related prosecutions very seriously. The potential outcome of a case depends on the type of charge, your level of involvement in the crime if it involves more than one person, and your willingness to cooperate with law enforcement. Based on those factors and the considerations in this article, a gang-related prosecution may end anywhere from a dismissal to substantial prison time, or anything in between.

If you’ve been arrested for a gang-related offense in Florida, you can work with a top rated St. Petersburg criminal defense lawyer to fight for your innocence, get your charges reduced, or get your possible sentence reduced to the lowest possible sentence. We welcome you to contact us today for a free consultation.

What Does Florida Law Consider a Gang, a Gang Member, or a Gang Associate?

Florida law defines a criminal gang as “a formal or informal ongoing organization, association, or group that has as one of its primary activities the commission of criminal or delinquent acts, and that consists of three or more persons who have a common name or common identifying signs, colors, or symbols.”

Even if a group does not consider committing crimes their “primary activity,” frequent arrests of people in that group are used by law enforcement to consider and label them a gang anyway.

Evidence Used to Prove That Someone Is in or Associated With a Gang Include:

  1. A person admits to being associated with a gang;
  2. A parent or guardian says the person is in a gang;
  3. Another gang member says a person is in a gang;
  4. A person adopts the style of dress of a gang;
  5. A person uses a gang’s hand signs;
  6. A person has tattoos associated with a gang;
  7. A person spends time or associates with at least one known gang member;
  8. A person is linked to the gang by any other physical evidence;
  9. A person has been observed with one or more known gang members at least four times;
  10. A person has written or posted anything admitting to being involved with a gang crime.

Police or prosecutors can label someone as a gang associate with just one of those factors, and it only takes evidence of two of those factors to label someone a gang member.

Why Does Law Enforcement and the Prosecutor Think I Am in a Gang?

Even if you do not consider yourself a gang member, if law enforcement can fit you or anything you have done into any of the factors listed above, that may be enough to call you a “gang member” or “gang associate” under the law.

Facts to help them fit you into this category can include you and your friends or family using a group name based on where you live or even a rap or music label. It’s easier for them to categorize you as a gang member if there are pictures or videos of you using that name or any hand signs that the group uses. Tattoos are also used to accomplish this by law enforcement.

Finally, if you are seen with even one or two of those other people in public or in contact with law enforcement (in a traffic stop, for example) that can also be used to categorize you as a “gang member”.

The long and short of it is–even if you do not call yourself a gang member, police and prosecutors may still be able to fit you into that legal category. To avoid them using that against you, avoid situations like those listed above.

What Does It Mean When I Am Charged With a Gang Crime?

First off, any crime can be treated as a gang crime by the police or prosecutors. Treating a crime as a gang crime may impact the aggressiveness of the prosecution or the length of potential sentence involved.

Prosecutors can use evidence that a crime was committed to further the interests of a gang in order to raise your charge to a higher degree and sentencing level. However, it is very difficult for them to prove that an alleged criminal offense was committed by a gang member for the specific motivation to further the interests of the gang as a whole.

However, even if they cannot prove that motivation, a gang-related case is likely being handled by a special prosecutor with particular knowledge of and relationships in the neighborhood where they may try to find witnesses to prove the gang-related crime.

If you are charged with a gang crime, expect the prosecutor to be prepared. See below about finding the right defense attorney who will be prepared to give you the best possible defense.

What Is Criminal Use of Electronic Gang Communication?

It is a third degree felony in Florida to distribute, sell, transmit, or post any audio, video, or image on the Internet to intimidate or harass someone else for the purpose of benefiting, promoting, or furthering the interests of a gang.

Police and prosecutors can use this law to charge someone for things like social media posts or even music videos if they have some evidence that the post or video may be directed at someone who wronged what they consider a gang. So, a diss track or smack talk online that is not intended to harass anyone may be misconstrued by additional context known to law enforcement. This is especially true if there are guns in the video. A disclaimer at the beginning of a video indicating something like “ANY PROPS USED IN THIS VIDEO THAT SHOW RESEMBLANCE TO ANY ILLEGAL MATERIALS ARE MERELY PROPS AND SHOULD NOT BE TAKEN SERIOUSLY” will not protect you.

Can the Police or Prosecutor Use My Music Videos Against Me? What About My First Amendment Right to Free Speech?

Yes. Florida courts have already held that this statute is largely constitutional. So, you do not have a first amendment right to post a music video that falls under the portion of the criminal use of electronic gang communication statute that criminalizes intimidation or harassment.

Source: Figueroa-Santiago v. State, 116 So.3d 585 (Fla. 2d DCA 2013).

Gang Crime Defense Lawyer in St. Petersburg, FL

If you’ve been arrested for a gang-related charge in St. Petersburg or anywhere in Pinellas County, please contact our criminal defense lawyers for a swift and aggressive response.

Our experienced team regularly helps people charged incorrectly, unlawfully or in need of a strong defense, to gain a future free from the consequences of prison and a criminal record. We can also prioritize saving your license, which may be suspended after a drug arrest.

Attorney Alec M. Waid, Esq., was a special prosecutor in the Gang Unit at the State Attorney’s Office before he joined our criminal defense team. So we are well equipped with specialized and advanced knowledge in the area of gang-related charges.

Free Consultations

Our Pinellas County criminal defense attorneys at Battaglia, Ross, Dicus & McQuaid, P.A., are part of one of Tampa Bay’s most prestigious law firms. We have the reputation and connections to make things happen.

Contact us today for a free consultation to get started or CALL (727) 381-2300

Additional Resources

Alec Waid