Santa Barbara Gang Injunction Denied

Sanger Swysen & Dunkle partner Stephen K. Dunkle was one of the leaders of a team of attorneys who defeated an effort by the City Attorney and District Attorney of Santa Barbara to obtain a civil gang injunction.  

In March of 2011, the People of the State of California filed a complaint in Santa Barbara County Superior Court seeking an injunction restricting the activities of two alleged criminal street gangs and thirty named individual defendants within certain zones of the city.  Following extensive litigation, which included rulings forcing the plaintiffs to revise their complaint to exclude references to the defendants’ alleged juvenile records, the case culminated with a four week bench trial in May of 2014.

On July 21, 2014, the Honorable Colleen K. Sterne issued a 32-page ruling denying the request for an injunction in its entirety.  The court found that “Santa Barbara is not a community beset by substantial and unreasonable gang-related interference with the comfortable enjoyment of life or property by an entire community or neighborhood, or any considerable number of persons.”  The Court also recognized the potential harm of an unwarranted gang injunction, stating, “gang injunctions can do significant mischief, actually assisting gang recruitment by enhancing the boastful, negative glamour of gang life and reinforcing an ‘us against them’ mentality.”

A copy of the court’s decision is available here.

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