Six individuals were arrested in West Valley City, Utah for what is being considered a gang-related shooting that has left a teenager paralyzed from the waist down.
Minors and adults involved
The six individuals arrested were either directly involved or involved in incidents that led up to the shooting. The suspects included two teens who were 15 and 16 years old as well as four adults who were all barely legal at only 18 to 19 years old. The gang-related shooting took place after a meet up between two gangs in West Valley City where the use of a firearm was allegedly prearranged. During the incident, multiple shots were fired and a 16 year old victim was rushed to the hospital where it was determined a bullet had struck his spine, paralyzing him from the waist down.
Enhanced penalties for gang-related shooting
When a crime such as a gang-related shooting can be linked to a “criminal street gang” or even a small group of people, the charges can be increased or enhanced. Utah Code 76-3-203.1 states “the enhanced penalty for a:
(a) class B misdemeanor is a class A misdemeanor;
(b) class A misdemeanor is a third degree felony;
(c) third degree felony is a second degree felony;
(d) second degree felony is a first degree felony; “
According to the Salt Lake County Sheriff’s Office, those arrested in the gang-related shooting incident were booked under charges including felony discharge of a firearm. Under normal criminal circumstances, discharge of a firearm which results in serious bodily injury of a person is already a first degree felony. According to the above code, the enhanced penalty for a “first degree felony is an indeterminate prison term of not less than five years in addition to the statutory minimum prison term for the offense, and which may be for life.”
“Criminal Street Gang”
Utah Code 76-9-802 defines a criminal street gang as “an organization, association in fact, or group of three or more persons, whether operated formally or informally:
(a) that is currently in operation;
(b) that has as one of its primary activities the commission of one or more predicate gang crimes;
(c) that has, as a group, an identifying name or identifying sign or symbol, or both; and
(d) whose members, acting individually or in concert with other members, engage in or have engaged in a pattern of criminal gang activity.
Small group of associates
Utah code 76-3-203.1 augments that enhanced penalties can result for those known to be in criminal street gangs, but also “in concert with two or more persons” which means “the defendant was aided or encouraged by at least two other persons in committing the offense and was aware of this aid or encouragement; and
(ii) each of the other persons:
(A) was physically present; or
(B) participated as a party to any offense listed in Subsection (5).”
(c) “In concert with two or more persons” means, regarding intent:
(i) other persons participating as parties need not have the intent to engage in the same offense or degree of offense as the defendant; and
(ii) a minor is a party if the minor’s actions would cause the minor to be a party if the minor were an adult.”
The majority of people are aware of the safety and criminal risks associated with gang involvement, however they may not understand that the penalties for many crimes are increased solely on the fact that there are ties to criminal street gangs. Their surprise is even greater for those facing enhanced charges merely for working with two or more people to commit the crime. Although facing criminal charges without counsel is never recommended, it is particularly important to be represented by a qualified criminal defense attorney if facing enhanced charges due gang-relations or group criminal events.