A recent article in the Tampa Bay Times describes how one can now appeal their inclusion inside the Pinellas county gang database. We are among the first counties in the state to address this issue. After long awknowledging that the state’s gang laws are vague, local law enforcement has moved ahead with a series of proposals that they hope will prevent people from wrongly being labled as gang members. Currently, you can be labled a gang member if you are seen hanging out with friends or family who are themselves gang members.
While many of the adopted changes still need approval from government officials and legal staff, Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri have already implemented many policies including:
– All information on local gangs, members and associates kept by Pinellas law enforcement agencies will be compiled into a centralized database maintained by the Sheriff’s Office.
– Unlike Florida state law that has no provisions for appeals, a person who is wrongly listed as gang members or associates can appeal to have their names removed from said lists.
– Strict time frames are set for names to be removed from lists. State law sets no time limits.
– Law enforcement must notify parents or legal guardians of children listed as gang members or associates in Pinellas county.
These changes had the support of all law enforcement agencies in Pinellas county as well as the Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney, Bernie McCabe.
Florida law permits local authorities to compile lists of suspected gang members and /or associates, and gives 11 criteria for gang membership. A person needs only to meet one criterion for the state to be allowed to label him or her a gang associate. With two or more criteria the person is considered a full-fledged gang member!
The big issue is the criteria itself. Merely dressing like a gang member, using hand signals associated with a gang or being seen with gang members is enough to be counted. The law does not require someone to have a criminal record to be listed as a gang member. People identified as gang members face closer scrutiny from law enforcement and, if arrested, potentially tougher prosecution.
Even when these new guideline go into effect, there will still be a few hiccups to deal with. For instance, it will still be possible under the new policies for someone to be listed as a gang member without a conviction. The new guidelines merely state that law enforcement will need documented “criminal association” between that person and a gang member, such as if he’s been seen dealing drugs with a gang member.
This should come as great news for Pinellas criminal defendants who have friends or family that are gang members. The Pinellas state attorney’s office has a very good gang unit that will travel between Pasco and Pinellas. These gang prosecutors have the authority to crack down on suspected gang members and can deliver more extreme sentences!
Have you or a loved one been arrested for a sale of a controlled substance or gang crime? Then call the St. Petersburg gang crime defense lawyers of Blake & Dorsten, P.A. today! These former prosecutors are experienced trial attorneys. Blake & Dorsten, P.A. handles all criminal defense and car accident cases throughout the Gulf Coast of Florida including Pinellas, pasco, Hillsborough, Sarasota, Manatee, Polk and Citrus counties.
To speak directly with your Pinellas gang defense attorney, click on the contact button or call them at (727)286-6141. Blake & Dorsten, P.A…when your case matters!