Duhaime's Law Dictionary


Hells Angels Motorcycle Club Definition:

A distinct outlaw motorcycle gang with significant operations in North America.

Related Terms: Outlaw Motorcycle Gang, Criminal Organization

Also known as Hell's Angels, HA, Red & White, 81 or Big Red Machine.1

It would appear that the correct presentation of the name as per the organization, is without the apostrophe as in Hells Angels.

The Hells Angels, according to Justice Higgins of the United States Court of Appeals in US v Barger, is:

"... an organization with a history of violence."

In Gatto v County of Sonoma, Justice Kline of the California Court of Appeal included, in his reasons for judgment, this footnote (#16):

"A report on the Hell's Angels prepared by the California Department of Justice in 1965 describes numerous "hoodlum activities" attributed to club members by law enforcement agencies, and their crime characteristics, but the report does not attribute any socio-political beliefs to members of the organization.

Hells Angels"Hunter S. Thompson, the author of a much more penetrating study of the Hell's Angels, concludes that the Hell's Angels are not visionaries, but diehards, and if they are the forerunners or the vanguard of anything it is not the `moral revolution' in vogue on college campuses [in the 1960s], but a fast-growing legion of young unemployables whose untapped energy will inevitably find the same kind of destructive outlet that `outlaws' like the Hell's Angels have been finding for years.

"According to Thompson, the insignia of the Hell's Angel, and particularly their swastika fetish, is no more than an antisocial joke....

"The 1%-er badge Hell's Angels commonly wear means that they are proud to be part of the alleged one percent of bike riders whom the American Motorcycle Association refuses to claim."

In People v Ralph McKee, Justice Friedman of the California Court of Appeals noted:

"Most of the northern California public regard Hell's Angels or members of a motorcyclists' organization of that name with distaste, a fact of which we take judicial notice."

We are indebted to Mr. Justice Romilly (now retired) of the Supreme Court of British Columbia for deferring to, in his judgment in R v Violette, these words of an expert in the field (Jacques Lemieux), after describing the Hell's Angels as an outlaw motorcycle gang:

"The (Hell's Angels Motorcycle Club) was formed in 1948 and started to become a sophisticated organization in 1957 under the leadership of Sonny Ralph Barger of the Oakland chapter. New chapters were opened in New Zealand in 1961, Nebraska in 1966 and Massachusetts in 1967.

"Lemieux testified that as of 2007, the Hell's Angels Motorcycle Club had 246 chapters in 30 countries and approximately 3,000 full members....

"The first Canadian chapter was founded in Montreal in 1977 when the Hells Angels Motorcycle Club took over an existing motorcycle club. In 1983, the Hells Angels Motorcycle Club took over the Satan’s Angels club in B.C. and created four chapters....

"Today (2009) there are approximately 36 chapters in Canada located in six provinces and organized into three regions: east, central and west. In B.C., the Hells Angels Motorcycle Club chapters are Vancouver, Nanaimo, White Rock, East End, Haney, Nomads and Mission City....

"The Hells Angels Motorcycle Club will do anything in their power to gather information on and to control rival groups in order to retain or obtain a monopoly within certain territory to conduct their criminal activity....

"The chapter is the basic foundation of the Hells Angels Motorcycle Club. A chapter is somewhat autonomous, though it does have to abide by the world rules, and its goal is to gain control of the territory in which it is located. Each chapter has an executive consisting of a President, Vice-president, Secretary or Treasurer, Sergeant at Arms, and a Road Captain....

"A chapter must have at least six members. He stated that each chapter is required to have a photo renewed yearly with the date stamped on it. Lemieux has seen such photos in various clubhouses around the world.... In his opinion, the reason for requiring these photos is to ensure that everyone knows who is and is not in the club to prevent infiltration by law enforcement...."The organization holds meetings to ensure uniformity. Meetings are held at various levels and generally issues are discussed that are important to members in the region. There are two Worldwide Meetings held each year and countries that do not send representatives are fined.... Only full members can attend meetings and no pagers or cell phones are allowed in. Lower ranking members will typically ensure security.....

"By identifying oneself as a Hells Ange”, the member lets it be known that he is part of the most powerful outlaw motorcycle gang in the world, a gang with a reputation for violence and intimidation, and that he has the whole organization behind him to assist him."

More recently (2011), these words were used by Justice de Montigny of the Federal Court of Canada in Stables v. Canada:

"As for the argument that the Hells Angels is an organization that pursues a number of activities, some of which are not criminal in nature, this is simply not borne out by the evidence. Having carefully reviewed the evidence and case law that was before it, the Immigration Division found that the Hells Angels is an organized crime group that exists to perpetuate crime....

"The Immigration Division wrote (that) there is enough evidence to prove, on reasonable grounds, a connection between criminal offences of Hells Angels members, associates and puppet groups, and the organization. There is evidence of the criminality of its members. Their criminal acts have included drug trafficking, extortion, firearms and explosives offences, and the rampancy of such criminal acts are probative in establishing that the Hells Angels is a criminal organization. It is also apparent that the affiliation with the Hells Angels furnishes members with opportunities to be involved in crime at a depth that may not otherwise be available to them. The panel is also satisfied that the nature and existence of the hierarchy within the Hells Angels, the influence of its leadership, and the incumbent obligations of the members and associates to one another, all foster and under gird the criminal event. This is also an organization that relishes in the power and notoriety of its members, and will employ violence and intimidation to preserve its power and enhance its reputation. It maintains the sanctuary or fortress of a Hells Angels clubhouse to minimize criminal exposure and infiltration.

"The Applicant has not even tried to challenge this finding, let alone endeavour to demonstrate that it is unreasonable."

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