Police and prosecutors can't enforce anti-gang policies against individuals suspected of belonging to an outlawed group without first giving each one an opportunity to fight that label in court, a federal judge ruled Tuesday.
The decision ordering Orange County authorities to respect the due process rights of suspected gang members was the first of its kind in a federal case and should compel all municipalities to assess their anti-gang initiatives for constitutional compliance, said Peter Bibring of the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California.
"The idea that police and prosecutors should be able to take away people's basic freedoms based on their judgment about who is and isn't a gang member is completely contrary to due process," said Bibring, a staff attorney with the ACLU. "All this ruling says is that people get some kind of hearing."
The decision by U.S. District Judge Valerie Baker Fairbank was spurred by a challenge brought by the ACLU and the law firm Munger, Tolles & Olson to a gang injunction originally sought in February 2009 against the Orange Varrio Cypress street gang. The injunction applied to about 150 suspected gang members and barred them from going out in public after 10 p.m. or being in the company of other gang members.