The Governor recently signed HB 407 into law, in an effort to address the proliferation of criminal Florida gangs. The new laws, which take effect on October 1, 2013, provide:
- Enhanced criminal penalties for certain trespassing offenses in school safety zones by persons convicted of certain gang-related offenses;
- Enhanced criminal penalties for individuals who intentionally cause, encourage, solicit, or recruit another person, under a specified age, to become a criminal gang member;
- Authorizes county and municipal detention facilities to designate individual(s) responsible for assessing whether an inmate is a criminal gang member or associate.
In addressing the gang problems in Florida schools, the Legislature determined that state is facing a mounting crisis caused by criminal gangs whose members threaten and terrorize peaceful citizens and commit a multitude of crimes, and that criminal gang activities present a clear and present danger. The Legislature also found that the state has a compelling interest in preventing criminal gang activity and halting the real and present danger posed by the proliferation of criminal gangs and the graduation from more primitive forms of criminal gangs to highly sophisticated criminal gangs.
As mentioned above, one of the laws which was modified provides enhanced penalties for individuals causing, encouraging, soliciting or recruiting criminal gang members. Specifically, Florida Statute §874.05 provides that:
- A person who intentionally causes, encourages, solicits, or recruits another person to become a criminal gang member, where a condition of membership or continued membership is the commission of any crime, commits a felony of the third degree. A second or subsequent violation of this law results in a felony of the second degree.
- When a person intentionally causes, encourages, solicits, or recruits another person under thirteen (13) years of age to become a criminal gang member, where a condition of membership or continued membership is the commission of any crime, commits a felony of the second degree. A second or subsequent violation of this law results in a felony of the first degree.
It is the Legislatures hope that strengthening the states laws dealing with recruiting new gang members will assist law enforcement in attacking gang proliferation in our school system.