In 2008, the feds indicted a number of members of the Mongols Motorcycle Club. Since then, an ongoing battle about whether the US government could seize the club’s patch has been raging. More than 100 people faced charges in state and federal courts, and dozens have pleaded guilty to crimes ranging from drug possession to conspiracy. Last week, the club — and arguably all motorcycle clubs — won a huge victory in federal court.
The US Attorney’s Office argued that the patch belonged to the criminal enterprise, and therefore was subject to seizure. In essence, law enforcement was looking for a blank check to seize anything bearing the club’s trademarked patch, from jackets and vests, to motorcycles.
Last Thursday, the U.S. District Court ruled in favor of the Mongol Motorcycle Club. The US attorney’s office argued, “This patch is a central element of the identity of the gang. We’re trying to dismantle a criminal organization and we’re trying to use whatever tools we can to do it. In this case it shows our determination to go after this organization as a whole – top to bottom leadership – and after the proceeds of criminal activity.” US District Court Judge Wright ruled in favor of the club, denying law enforcement the ability to seize items displaying the club’s patch.
The club’s attorney argued that a single person cannot own a collective membership insignia. The judge implicitly agreed. “There is no evidence that Cavazos or any other individual member of the organization holds or ever held an ownership interest in the [trademarked patch] in question,” the judge wrote in his decision. The law “does not impose liability on the (racketeering) enterprise if it is not named as a ‘person.'”
Regardless of one’s club affiliation, this is a victory for motorcycle clubs. Had the ruling gone the other way, members of the club — whether they were named in the indictment or not — could face losing their property. We expect the feds to appeal the decision. The motorcycle accident lawyers at Riderz Law will keep you posted as this litigaiton continues.