ACLU Wins Higher Legal Standards for Gang Injunctions

May 10, 2001 12:00 am

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SAN DIEGO — The California Court of Appeal ruled today that prosecutors must first prove through clear and convincing evidence that a young man is a gang member before using an anti-gang injunction to restrict his right to engage in everyday activities.

Despite not being a gang member, David Englebrecht, a 26-year-old father of three was placed under a civil injunction designed to combat a local gang. Under the injunction, Englebrecht was prohibited from making loud noises, whistling, wearing certain clothing, using certain words or hand gestures or being seen in public with other alleged gang members within an approximately one-square- mile area of Oceanside.

“Prosecutors will no longer be able to use flimsy evidence to brand young Latino men with the label gang member,” said Candace Carroll, an ACLU volunteer lawyer. “Under this injunction, Mr. Englebrecht was prohibited from going to outdoor parties in his neighborhood, speaking with some of his relatives and boyhood friends on the street, even shouting to his children in a local park. With so much at stake, the Constitution requires the government to meet a very high standard of proof.”

Englebrecht challenged his inclusion on a list of 28 persons restrained by a 1999 injunction imposed by the Vista Superior Court. The Superior Court denied that challenge, but one year later Englebrecht was able to convince the Court to take him off the list. Even though Englebrecht was no longer subject to the injunction, the appellate court felt that the issues were of such broad public interest it decided the case anyway.

Gang injunctions are an increasingly popular tool for law enforcement, with hundreds of people throughout the state affected by them. Following today’s decision, non-gang members will have greater protection against being wrongfully and arbitrarily subjected to court restrictions on their ordinary daily activities.

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