In earlier blog posts, I discussed the CalGang Database, a database collected and used by law enforcement throughout California. I discussed how this database is kept in secret and many who are included in the database are unaware of their inclusion and worse yet, many who are listed in the database are listed in error.
In a victory for the civil liberties and social justice organizations that pushed for it, a new law was just signed by the governor, to go into effect on January 1, 2018, that is designed to end the secrecy of this database and give those on the database an opportunity to contest inclusion of their name on the database. This is an important piece of legislation because inclusion on this database can have serious consequences and affects the due process rights of those who have been placed on a gang database.
As I previously discussed in earlier blog posts, a person might be put in a gang database for simply being in detained by the police in a certain neighborhood or even put on the database in error. For those later arrested for a crime, being in the database will, in many cases, result in the prosecution alleging gang enhancements, which necessarily carry greater punishments than the underlying crime itself. For undocumented immigrants, being included on a gang database can be cause for their deportation without hearing, even if they are mis-classified on the database.
The new law requires that local law enforcement agencies provide written notice to a person included on any gang database including CalGang, or to that person’s parent or guardian if the person is a minor. The only exception to this requirement is if the notification would compromise an active criminal investigation or if it would endanger the health or safety of the minor. (Let’s hope law enforcement doesn’t find creative ways to implement this exception.) The notification must also describe the process by which the affected person, or his or her attorney, may contest the inclusion on the gang database.
The upshot here is that after decades of pinning individuals as gang members, associates, or affiliates on secret databases, law enforcement can no longer operate in this manner. Now anyone who is so named must be informed and, perhaps more importantly, can legally contest his or her inclusion on the database for removal. Furthermore, if that challenge is denied, the new law provides for a judicial review of the denial.
It is still a ways off before this law takes effect but it should have an immediate effect on law enforcement. Knowing that they cannot continue adding names to gang databases in secrecy, law enforcement will likely take more precautions before adding a name to a gang database. It can also be expected that law enforcement will do some of their own house-cleaning to purge errors on the databases before the law takes effect.
William Weinberg is an experienced criminal defense attorney. Gang-enhanced charges require the attention of an experienced criminal defense attorney. If you have any questions regarding your gang-enhanced charges or any criminal defense matter, please feel free to contact Mr. Weinberg to set up a confidential consultation without charge at firstname.lastname@example.org or (949) 474-8008