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Posted by: Susan Karpa, Criminal Defence Lawyer on 10/13/2016

Steering Clear of Calgary's Gang Laws isn't Easy

Steering Clear of Calgary's Gang Laws isn't Easy

One of the central concepts to the legal system in Calgary—and indeed, throughout Canada and in any democratic nation—is that all people are created equal. This means that everyone is entitled to the same rights and obligations under the law. In the criminal justice system, this means that who someone is shouldn't affect the way the are treated no matter what they are accused of doing.

Criminal investigations, the laying of charges, treated by Crown prosecutors and Calgary judges, and sentencing should not be affected by someone's identity, beliefs, or affiliations. Yet Alberta's gang laws make it all too easy for those in the Greater Calgary Area to find themselves the subject of special investigations and facing enhanced penalties for criminal charges based not on anything they did, but on who their friends allegedly are.

Innocence May be No Defence Against Calgary Gang Charges

The law defines a gang or "criminal organization" very broadly. Any group of three or more people, inside or outside Canada, that allegedly has a criminal activity among its purposes, can legally be considered a "gang." This designation gives the Calgary Police and other law enforcement agencies broader powers to investigate, and can also lead to additional charges for gang activity being laid against alleged gang members. Those convicted of gang-related crimes can also face additional penalties above and beyond what they would face for the same crime committed without the gang affiliation.

While this may seem to fly in the face of supposed equality and of the presumption of innocence that is supposed to be afforded to anyone that has not been convicted of a crime, it remains the law of the land.

A recent incident involving two motorcycle clubs in Fort McMurray illustrates how gang laws can be used to target individuals who might never have committed any crime. Though details of five arrests made have not been made public, what is clear from the initial report is that certain individuals were targeted for investigation based in their association with the motorcycle clubs. Other members of other chapters of these clubs have been found guilty of crimes, and therefore both clubs were identified as "gangs," and all members essentially became guilty by association—without a trial, and without being treated equally in the eyes of the law.

According to the law as written, if three members of a motorcycle club committed a crime in the United States or somewhere else in the world, all members of the club here in Alberta can be targeted by our province's organized crime laws. Almost anyone could find themselves caught up in a gang-related investigation, without ever even putting a toe over the line of the law..

Fight Your Gang-Related Charges with an Experienced Calgary Defence Lawyer

If you or a family member has been charged with a gang-related crime in the Greater Calgary Area, you don't have to take it lying down. Contact the office of Calgary criminal lawyer Susan Karpa and get the passionate defence you're entitled to.