Posted on 12/18/17

Television has long depicted the concept of organized crime as men who are members of a crime family involved in racketeering. According to this depiction, these men are Italian-American or Irish-American and belong to close-knit families in New York or Boston. They live high lifestyles and wear sharp suits. They go around in limousines and other luxury cars. They have various nicknames and claim innocence. They have hitmen who do all the dirty work for them. They have control over some rouge police officers who are complicit in their operations, provided that the mobsters pay large sums of cash to the police in an incognito dead drop.

The Texas Legislature, recognizing that organized crime exists in Texas on a different plane, created laws that target a different kind of organized crime – gangs. That is to say, the Texas Penal Code criminalizes “gang” activity as organized crime.

Unlike the 1980s crime drama Wiseguy wherein Ken Wahl plays a detective who involves himself with mafia underworld in the northeast, the target of Texas gang laws is not aimed at a television crime family; rather, the laws are aimed at curbing what the legislature deems to be gang violence. According to the legislature, gang violence tends to be “organized” and should therefore be treated as such. The severity of punishment for a gang-related crime is greater than the identical crime that is not gang related.

Gang Law

The Texas Penal Code, or the Code, in Title 11 Section 71 states: “‘Criminal street gang’ means three or more persons having a common identifying sign or symbol or an identifiable leadership who continuously or regularly associate in the commission of criminal activities.” The law does not prohibit associating with a gang; instead, there are specific crimes and punishments when a gang is involved in the crime.

The Code provides a list of gang activities that it criminalizes. Specifically, a person who participates in a gang with the intent to commit certain crimes is part of organized crime and can be charged as such. These crimes include:

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