The MPP has heavily reported on the recent trend of individuals being arrested for possession of handguns merely for membership in a motorcycle club. This includes individuals with no criminal records and License To Carry holder’s. The MPP has even issued a travel warning to motorcyclists traveling through Texas. One such case against a member of the Bandidos Motorcycle Club (Ashley Becker) in Lubbock, TX continues with a refiling of charges for Unlawful Carry for mere membership in the club, which authorities label a criminal street gang. Law enforcement and prosecutors should dismiss all such cases in the name of justice because they rely on an unconstitutional application of statute which ignores the basic principle of personal guilt.
Texas Penal Code 46.02, the statute prohibiting gang members from carrying weapons, is being misapplied to individuals simply for being members of motorcycle clubs. Take Ashley Becker, who was originally charged with Unlawful Carry and suspicion of possessing a controlled substance in Lubbock, Texas in 2018. The weapon wasn’t illegal, and no crime was committed. He was arrested under 46.02 for being a Bandido in possession of an otherwise legal weapon. The alleged controlled substance, after being tested multiple times, turned out to be inconclusive.
While prosecutors make no admission that they misapplied statute 46.02, they filed a motion to dismiss. The motion reads, “The interest of justice cannot be served through further proceedings in this matter.”
Although the 2018 indictment was dismissed without prejudice, on February 9, 2019 charges were refilled against Becker on the Unlawful Carry charges. The aﬃdavit identifies Becker’s membership in the Bandidos as the only probable cause for arrest.
Authorities persist despite absurd, unconstitutional interpretation of law.
Despite the fact that their interpretation of statute is unconstitutional and in violation of established state and federal rules of evidence, law enforcement and prosecutors persist in wasting public resources targeting individuals like Becker for participating in Constitutionally protected expression and association. This absurd interpretation of 46.02 would mean that carrying a weapon is unlawful for any individual that is a member of the Bandidos Motorcycle Club, with no other evidence, even with a License to Carry.
“If this seems outrageous, your instincts are correct. The MPP, after conducting cursory research on 46.02, has identified precedent, Ex Parte Flores 483 SW 3d 632 (2015), that clearly articulates how law enforcement is currently misinterpreting and misapplying Texas statute in violation of the basic rules of evidence and the US Constitution.”
“Law Enforcement and prosecutors should immediately cease and desist misapplying Texas statute. Applying Texas Penal Code 46.02 to members of clubs with no criminal records, and even LTC’s, would chill 1st Amendment Association and ignore the doctrine of personal guilt, “a cornerstone of American Jurisprudence.”
In the name of justice, prosecutors in Lubbock should again file a motion to dismiss all charges against Becker, this time with prejudice. Furthermore, prosecutors and law enforcement in El Paso, Dallas, and across the state of Texas should follow suite.
After motorcycle clubs, who’s next?
Everyone should ask themselves, “After motorcycle clubs, who’s next?” Every large identifiable group has individuals that have committed crimes. Should your civil liberties be taken based on the actions of other individuals you associate with even if you had no involvement in criminal activity?
The blatant attempt to disarm the entire community regardless of an individual’s personal involvement in criminal activity will not stop with motorcycle clubs if authorities are successful. Every American should be deeply concerned about this assault on basic civil liberties. Unpopular speech, including unpopular association, is the most important speech to protect. Or so long has held the Supreme Court.