Ten members of the notoriously dangerous MS-13 gang have been arrested in Plainfield for conspiring to kill a man who slapped one of their gang members. Under the state’s gang criminality law (§2C; 33:29), those suspects will be facing a more serious penalty specifically because they acted in conjunction with other gang members for furtherance of the gang’s objectives.
According to the Star-Ledger, the man who slapped an MS-13 gang member was marked for death by the end of the day. Although the man who he slapped was arrested, the plot was still going to be carried out. Ten alleged members of the MS-13 gang were arrested in all, in an effort to stop the murder of the slapping man—all charged with first-degree conspiracy to commit murder along with other various drug and gun charges.
Though not all were charged in conjunction with the murder, they were all charged under the gang criminality law, which requires any crime filed under it to have been “committed for the benefit of, at the direction of, or in association with a criminal street gang.”
MS-13, or Mara Salvatrucha, is widely recognized as one of the world’s most ruthless and dangerous street gangs, with ties originating in El Salvador and current roots all over North, Central, and South America.
The gang has recently grown to a significant size in Plainfield, population 50,000. They reportedly labeled the once-powerful Latin Kings as an “oppressor” and moved in to take over areas of the small city. They not only sought to take over other gangs’ territories but also required their own members and families to pay “tributes” of around $200 per month to go back to El Salvador where a MS-13 leader is locked up.
The gang criminality law is designed to provide especially harsh penalties to those who are involved in the commission of criminal acts while being associated with a gang. Typically, being charged under this law raises the level of the offense you are charged with one degree. For instance, if you are charged with Unlawful Possession of a Weapon, typically a 3rd degree offense, under the gang criminality law, you would face a 2nd degree crime instead.
The problem with gang-centered laws like this one is they can occasionally be applied to people who aren’t actually in a gang but merely associate with gang members. From the outside people may think this is okay, that people who associate with gang members should learn their lesson and find friends elsewhere. But the bottom line is, if you’re not in a gang, you shouldn’t be penalized as if you are.
Whether you are facing charges under the gang criminality law or simply facing any criminal charges in New Jersey, you have every right to be worried. An experienced defense lawyer can help set your mind at ease. Contact my offices today to discuss your case and receive some valuable legal advice.