Howard County Maryland Blog

Local Politics and Current Events

MD General Assembly Passes Anti-Gang Legislation

Posted by Ed C on Sunday, March 25, 2007

On Tuesday (3/20/2007) the MD General Assembly passed HB 713 – Maryland Gang Prosecution Act of 2007 with a vote of 134 to 1.

Prohibiting a person from participating in a specified criminal gang knowing that the members of the gang engage in or have engaged in a specified pattern of criminal gang activity; prohibiting a person from willfully promoting, furthering, or assisting in a criminal offense committed for the benefit of, at the direction of, or in association with a criminal gang; establishing penalties for a violation of the Act; etc.

The bill has been cross filed with Senate Bill 632, but it is not clear what action the Senate is planning.

This bill seems like it will give our law enforcement officials a useful tool in prosecuting gang members and gang behavior. Certainly it will have a broader impact than the withdrawn Machete bill.

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7 Responses to “MD General Assembly Passes Anti-Gang Legislation”

  1. bsflag2007 said

    Maybe it’s just me, but prohibiting “freedom of association” based on what law enforcement thinks people “know” about their acquaintances’ activities sounds a little hard to prove and enforce — at least in America….

    cindy v.

  2. hocoterp said

    Passing this legislation will certainly give prosecutors another tool to use against gangs, especially when it is difficult to connect gang members to specific crimes. However, the definition of criminal gang is rather broad.

    For example, I wouldn’t consider a john pimping two or more prostitutes to be engaging in gang activity, but it fits the definition. You have a “formal or informal association of three or more persons” who repeatedly engage in a pattern of criminal gang activity (prostitution and related crimes), have as their primary objective the the commission of a criminal act (prostitution), and have in common a leader (the john).

    Of course there is a reason that prostitution was included on the list of gang activities, and if a prostitution ring is part of a gang’s criminal empire then you can throw the book at them, but that’s not always going to be the case. As with any tool at a person’s disposal, let’s hope State’s Attorney’s use this one effectively against gang members and not against everyone and anyone whose case can fit the defintion.

    In terms of using this statute against the average citizen to prohibit freedom of association, there are a couple plausible scenarios, and they mostly involve possessing a controlled dangerous drug (like marijuana). Possessing and smoking marjuana is the pattern of criminal gang activity. The group could have a leader, or if activitists, a common purpose. The tough part is to be an unsuspecting citizen in a group having as one of their primary objectives one or more criminal activities. If the group includes overzealous potheads who smoke up at every meeting, then that could be a primary activity.

    So if you avoid potheads and other druggies, and obviously avoid the violent crime, you should be safe. It’s a broad net, but it would still be tough to be an unspecting citizen and get caught up in it.

  3. bsflag2007 said

    “let’s hope State’s Attorney’s use this one effectively against gang members and not against everyone and anyone whose case can fit the defintion.” (from above post)

    Tackling gang activity is a noble goal…but do we really want to make laws that may apply to an “overly broad” population and then hope the authorities use good judgment in applying it?

    Sort of the “criminals shouldn’t have any rights” and since I’m not a criminal I don’t have to worry about it school of thought?

    Cindy V.

  4. jim adams said

    Did they exclude the two magor political gangs, oop’s, parties from this legislation.

  5. hocoterp said

    Jim, it depends on how you defined Mayhem and Robbery in the first or second degree.

  6. jim adams said

    Thanks Hocoterp, I enjoyed that and I am still laughing. Enjoy the day.

  7. Jim Walsh said

    Now I’m not a criminal attorney (yes, I know that’s a redundancy), but it seems to me that the second part of the bill synopsis describes activity (conspiracy, accessory) that is already criminal, and the first part of the bill synopsis seems to make association with criminals a crime.

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