Hastings Constitutional Law Quarterly


In 1998, faced with a gang-violence epidemic, California passed the Street Terrorism Enforcement and Prevention Act ("STEP"), becoming the first state to enact a law specifically targeting criminal street gangs. Through STEP, California courts began to gradually expand the scope of evidence admissible to prove gang membership and to loosen restrictions on expert testimony regarding gang behavior. This trend culminated in People v. Gardeley, in which the California Supreme Court upheld an extremely broad view of permissible uses of expert testimony. This note argues that not only did Gardeley goes too far, but also that in its Gardeley decision the California Supreme Court missed a critical opportunity to reemphasize California's restrictive view of expert testimony and the importance of judicial gatekeeping.