Over 10 years ago, California implemented its now-controversial criminal database, CalGang®. The system is purported to be a way to increase public and officer safety, as well as improve investigation efficiency, by tracking data on street gangs.
The database contains information about individuals believed to be a member or associate of a criminal group, tattoos associated with gangs, vehicle descriptions and locations of alleged members, and criminal history and activity. Even children as young as 10 years of age have been tracked in CalGang®. Reportedly, over 1,000 minors are in the system.
Agencies Overseeing CalGang®
CalGang® is monitored by the California Department of Justice along with the California Gang Node Advisory Committee. According to the Office of the Attorney General, information from the database is shared only with law enforcement officers and for law enforcement purposes.
Although the DOJ says it closely monitors CalGang® and does not allow it to be used for anything other than criminal investigations, a 2015 state audit revealed that those overseeing the database did so without statutory authority, transparency, or public input.
Placement on CalGang®
Getting put on the database seems relatively easy; whereas getting taken off has proven much more difficult. With things such as “gang associate” vaguely defined, almost anyone could end up in CalGang®. In May of 2019, The Los Angeles Times covered a story about a man who was entered into the system because he gave a friend a ride. The friend was an alleged gang member with a criminal record.
To be removed from the database, an individual must make a request with their local law enforcement agency. If the department denies the removal, the person can petition the court to review the decision. If the requests are declined, the gang member designation can follow a person around for years.
Gang Membership Designation
California Penal Code 186.36 sets criteria for designating a person as a gang member or associate; however, the definitions are broad.
According to the statute, designation standards must be “unambiguous, not overbroad, and consistent with empirical research on gangs and gang membership.”
A file released by the Office of the Attorney General states that two or more of the following are acceptable criteria:
- Admitting to being a gang member
- Arrests for gang-related offenses
- Identifying gang membership by reliable sources
- Associating with documented gang members
- Exhibiting of gang signs or hand signals
- Wearing gang clothing
- Visiting areas known to be frequented by gangs
- Having gang-related tattoos
Gang Enhancement Laws
Being designated as a gang member or an associate can have severe effects on the penalties for a crime. If a person is in a gang or actively associates with one, and they commit a felony for the group, they could face enhanced sentencing for the alleged offense. Typically, prison terms are increased by 2, 3, or 4 years; however, it could be longer depending on the offense the person was accused of committing.
Speak with Our Team at Corrigan Welbourn Stokke, APLC
If you were charged with a gang crime, discuss your case with a skilled attorney. The State harshly prosecutes these matters, and a conviction can wreak havoc on your life well into the future. Our team fights hard to protect your rights and minimize the consequences of a criminal charge. Backed by over 100 years of combined experience, we know how to build compelling strategies to fight allegations, and we will work toward getting your charges reduced or dropped.
Schedule a free case evaluation by calling us at (949) 251-0330 or contacting us online.