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Gang affiliation means aggressive prosecution

Gangs are notorious for using violence to protect and promote their illegal activities, including drug crimes and weapons trafficking. Belonging to a gang as a youth may provide a sense of family and purpose, and not being in a gang can leave you dangerously unprotected.

As juvenile gang violence seems to be on the rise, police and politicians work to fight crimes associated with gang culture by targeting those whom police suspect of being involved in gang activity. This may include you.

In California, police have relied on a state-funded gang database. The compilation of names includes those who are known gang members as well as those who are in any way affiliated with gangs. That affiliation can be something as minor as living on the same street where gang activity takes place.

The CalGang database

Once your name is in the database, the county is not likely to remove it. If police have not updated your file in the past five years, they are supposed to delete that file. A recent audit revealed that the database still contains over 600 unedited files dating back more than five years.

If you were a minor when police marked you as affiliated with a gang, the law required authorities to notify your parents to allow them to dispute the addition of your name to the database. However, 70 percent of the juvenile records auditors examined included no notification of parents. You may not have even known your name was on the list.

Authorities don't share the reasons for some entries

One of the most controversial elements of the CalGang database is the inconsistency and lack of transparency involved. Many of the entries lack explanation for why police included the individuals, and authorities are not always forthcoming with information to defend their entries.

In the sampling they reviewed, auditors discovered 42 individuals who were younger than 1 year old when police added their names to the list. More than half of those included notations that those infants had admitted to being involved in a gang.

California gang laws are not in your favor

If your recent arrest was related to your inclusion in the gang database, you have a right to be concerned. Many counties in California are backing away from the use of the database as a way to fight gang-related crime. Others have vowed to revise the process they use to enter and maintain the data. This may reflect a growing lack of confidence in the information the database holds.

Because of the violent and prevalent nature of gang activity, many youths arrested for such crimes are charged as adults. You may be looking at a long and difficult prison sentence - even if the courts convicted you for a misdemeanor - simply because of your gang affiliation, no matter how slight. Having an attorney who will fight to protect your rights will be crucial to your future.

The right attorney will act quickly and decisively to defend your interests. With knowledge and experience defending against gang-related charges, your attorney will work hard to obtain a reduced sentence or even to have the charges against you dismissed.

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