Texas law imposes harsher penalties when criminal offenses are linked to gang activity. Under Tex. Pen. Code § 71.01, gang activity occurs when “three or more persons having a common identifying sign or symbol or an identifiable leadership who continuously or regularly associate in the commission of criminal activities.”
Tex. Pen. Code § 71.02 provides that when individuals engage in organized criminal activity, i.e. gang activity, the criminal charge becomes one offense classification higher than it would be if the charge were unrelated to gang activity. For example, a criminal offense that normally is classified under Texas law as a second degree felony would increase to a first degree felony if an individual committed a criminal offense as a result of or in the process of gang activity. This can result in far more severe penalties, especially when the original offense is a Class A misdemeanor, but it is elevated to a state jail felony due to gang activity.
When Does Gang Membership Impact a Criminal Sentence?
Engaging in organized criminal activity occurs when an individual intends “to establish, maintain, or participate in a combination or in the profits of a combination or as a member of a criminal street gang.” § 71.02.
Gang-related criminal offenses can range from relatively minor offenses, such as vandalism or graffiti, to very serious charges, such as murder. Other offenses that often are gang-related include:
· Weapons Charges
· Hate Crimes
· Drug Offenses
If gang membership or any other allegations in your criminal charges threaten to increase the potential penalties that you are facing, you should consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney who can ensure that you raise all of the relevant defenses. At Peek & Toland, we are dedicated to protecting your rights and defending you against any criminal charges that you may be facing. We are here to investigate the facts surrounding your case, consider your options, and help you develop the strategy that is best designed to achieve a successful outcome in your case. Do not waste time attempting to handle legal matters on your own; contact our office as soon as you are charged with a criminal offense so that we can provide you with the help that we need.