HB 1220 — Criminal Gang Activity

It is an obvious statement that gangs are damaging to communities and that criminal gang laws are needed.  But, too often, children who are not in real gangs are being swept into the criminal courts by the current definition of “criminal gang” and the juvenile court jurisdiction statutes.  HB 1220 would make two critical changes to the juvenile code.

First, HB 1220 would change the juvenile court jurisdiction to include the offenses of criminal gang activity (IC 35-45-9-3) and criminal gang intimidation (IC 35-45-9-4).  Currently, those two crimes are excluded from juvenile court jurisdiction  (IC 31-30-1-4).  That means that if a prosecutor simply alleges that a child who was at least sixteen years old committed either gang offense, the case is automatically filed in criminal court with the procedures and sentencing ranges faced by an adult defendant.  The child never appears in juvenile court.

Second, the definition of criminal gang (IC 35-45-9-1) would be amended as follows:

“”Criminal gang” means a group with a least three (3) member that:

(1) specifically: (A) promotes sponsors, assists in, or participates in and (B) requires as a condition of membership or continued membership; the commission of a felony or an act that would be a felony if committed by an adult; and

(2) collectively: (A) engages in a pattern of criminal gang activity; and (B) is a covert or overt organization that has a command structure.”

This change in the definition would stop the ease with which three children committing an act together can be classified as a gang with the very real impact of a felony conviction  and potentially damaging periods of incarceration.  The current definition at a minimum only requires “three members that specifically participates in the commission of a felony, or an act that would be a felony if committed by an adult, or the offense of battery…”.

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One Response to HB 1220 — Criminal Gang Activity

  1. Matt says:

    I just wanted to thank you for you are one of the few few that recognize this problem in the juvenile justice system. I was tried as an adult when i was 16 for the same reason and i had no connection to any gangs other than there was more than 3 people involved in the instances. And the circumstances that i was an athlete and played sports and also had only been arrested one other time and i still got tried as an adult just amazes me. and the fact that this all occurred in franklin township which is the southside of marion county is just silly to say a bunch of kids from the southside were in a gang. Not saying it can’t happen but you know. But i will say that situation really woke me up and made me realize what p.o.s people i was around. It was ddefiantly the hardest things that had happened to me mainly because i was in the adult jail at such a young age for a long period of time and then on house arrest for a year after. But i just wanted to thank you for creating this article and it would be great if those changes would be made so that other kids do not have to go through the same that i did.

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