Bill which implements tougher sentences for persons who take part in gang activity passes Senate committee

03/14/2017 03:28 PM

FRANKFORT – individuals who recruit children under 15 years old to join gangs would face harsher prison sentences under legislation which was unanimously passed on Tuesday by the Senate Committee on Judiciary.

House Bill 315, sponsored by Rep. Robert Benvenuti, R-Lexington, calls for stiffer penalties for adults 18 and older who are charged with intentionally encouraging someone to join a criminal gang and would face misdemeanor or felony charges for repeat offenses.

Benvenuti told committee members that Kentucky’s current laws are outdated and can contribute to gang additional activity in the commonwealth.

“They are prohibition based laws that simply do not allow law enforcement to appropriately work to prevent, detect, and prosecute gangs and gang related violence in our commonwealth,” Benvenuti said. “And make no mistake about it, that gang violence and what flows from that, and those gang activities, hit every portion of our commonwealth.”

Other provisions of the bill provides stricter sentencing requirements for
members of criminal gang syndicates (defined as three or more people acting as a
criminal gang), allow the courts to hold hearings to determine if someone arrested
for a gang-related offense was a member of a criminal gang at the time of the crime, and give victims of criminal gang activity the ability to sue the gang member for damages.

Christian County Commonwealth Attorney Lynn Pryor says that gang activity in the commonwealth is not just a big city urban problem, and one of the big reasons that it’s spreading statewide are the current sentencing guidelines.

“I personally met with these gang members as well as they’ve told me in no uncertain terms they know that Kentucky’s laws regarding gang enforcement are weak,” Pryor said. They’re coming to Kentucky because of it.”

HB 315 contains an emergency clause, which would make the provisions in the bill effective immediately if the bill is signed by the governor or otherwise becomes law.

HB 315 now moves on to the full Senate for consideration.


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