For decades now, law enforcement agencies in Los Angeles County have been employing the tactic of obtaining court injunctions against specific gang members in an effort to curb their activities. The process begins when law enforcement asks the City Attorney’s Office to seek a gang injunction from a judge who in turn grants a restraining order against specific gang members of a particular gang, in essence suing them. It declares the gang’s behavior a nuisance and asks for special restrictions on their activity.
The lawsuit names actual gang members who are then forbidden to engage in a number of activities, some of which are already illegal such as selling drugs, vandalizing property, and possessing weapons. The suit may also specify a certain geographical area (often labeled as a “safety zone”) and prohibit seemingly legal activities such as wearing certain clothing, acting as lookouts, or even riding bicycles.
When under a typical restraining order, a gang member found possessing an illegal weapon while wearing gang related clothing can be held in “contempt of court” as well as being charged with a weapons violation. These dual charges result because the weapon possession is illegal in itself, and under the restraining order, both wearing the clothing and possession the weapon are also violations. This means that on top of whatever sentence would be received for the weapon possession, additional sanctions would be imposed for violating the court’s direct order.
A variety of conduct that constitutes contempt of court is defined in Penal Code 166 PC. The code specifically includes (but is not limited to) willfully disobeying the terms of a lawfully issued injunction (that is, “order”) that restricts gang activity. Violations of gang injunctions are treated as violations of court orders. This means that violations are punishable by fines and jail time. In California, a violation is punishable by up to six months in jail and up to $1,000 in fines.
Daniel R. Perlman, Esq.
Law Offices of Daniel R. Perlman