Engaging In Organized Crime

What is engaging in organized crime?

 

The State of Texas can charge a person with Engaging in Organized Criminal Activity in two different ways:

  • The accused person was in a group of 3 or more people (a “combination”) who collaborated in carrying on criminal activities; or
  • The accused person was a member of a criminal street gang; the person commits or conspires to commit one or more of the following:

 

Murder

Capital Murder

Arson

Aggravated Robbery

Robbery

Burglary

Theft

Aggravated Kidnapping

Kidnapping

Aggravated Assault

Aggravated Sexual Assault

Sexual Assault

Solicitation of a minor

Deadly Conduct

Forgery

Class A Misdemeanor  Assault

Burglary of a Motor Vehicle

Unauthorized Use of a Motor Vehicle

 

 

What is the punishment for organized crime in Texas?


When a person is accused of Engaging in Organized Criminal Activity while committing one of the offenses listed above, the offense is one category higher than the most serious offense.  For example, one person committing a first offense Burglary of a motor vehicle is a Class A Misdemeanor.  Three people (a combination) committing a first offense Burglary of a Motor Vehicle can be charged as Engaging in Organized Criminal Activity (State Jail Felony).

 

What is gang related organized crime?

 

It does not always take three people to get charged with Engaging in Organized Criminal Activity.  Two people, or even one person, who, as a member of a criminal street gang commit or conspires to commit one or more of the offenses listed above can be charged with Engaging in Organized Criminal Activity.  A Street Gang is defined as 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. 

 

This means that the “Street Gang” must be made of at least three people, but you can be charged with Engaging in Organized Criminal Activity as a Member of a Street Gang even if you are alone during the alleged offense.

 

Can you fight an Engaging in Organized Criminal Activity charge?

 

Yes! Especially the Engaging in Organized Criminal Activity as a member of a street gang. In June, 2018, the Texas Court Of Criminal Appeals wrote an opinion in Zuniga v. State551 S.W.3d 729, 736 (2018) that said:

 

Furthermore, we interpret the word "as" in the phrase "as a member of a criminal street gang" as requiring proof that the defendant was acting "[i]n the role, capacity, or function of" a gang member at the time of the offense.

 

This means that the Prosecutor must show that (1) The group they say you were a part of IS a criminal street gang; (2) You were a member of that street gang; and (3) You were “acting in the role, capacity, or function of a gang member at the time of the offense.” They must also prove whatever the underlying charge is; Burglary of a Motor Vehicle in our earlier example.

 

If you are charged with Engaging in Organized Criminal Activity as a Member of a Street Gang, you need an attorney who is familiar with making a defense supported by Zuniga v. State.  This is not the only defense you may have in your case, but it is certainly one you want to make if it is available.

 

Help Is Here! John Leo and George Oginni are criminal defense attorneys at Leo & Oginni Trial Lawyers who are familiar with recent caselaw decisions and can argue to defend your rights. 

Help Is Here, contact us to talk about your case!!

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