Organized crime has existed for years, and legislators throughout the nation
have passed numerous laws to directly address the threat criminal organizations
pose to the public and enable law enforcement agencies and prosecutors
to more easily arrest and charge individuals involved in these organizations.
The federal government also enforces laws intended to charge and convict
Aside from federal laws targeting organized crime, the state of California
also enforces laws that directly address gang crimes and gang members.
If you or someone you love has been charged with crime in connection to
alleged gang involvement, it is of critical important that you work with
a criminal defense attorney capable of defending against the elevated
penalties at stake. At The Law Offices of Jacqueline Goodman, our Orange
County criminal defense lawyer is prepared to help you learn more about
any charges or enhancements you or your loved one is facing during a free
Gang Crime Laws in California
California uses the state’s “STEP Act,” or Street Terrorism
Enforcement and Prevention Act, when criminal cases involve defendants
with ties to street gangs. Under PC 186.22, which is part of the STEP
Act, California makes it a crime simply to participate in a gang. The
penal code section also enforces a sentencing enhancement for defendants
who commit felony crimes in connection to gang activity. The two parts
of PC 186.22 are as follows:
- PC 186.22(a) – Under California law, it is a crime to be a participant
in a street gang and to assist gang members in any felony criminal conduct.
Depending on the circumstances involved, you may be charged with a misdemeanor
that poses a 1-year jail sentence, or a felony that poses terms of imprisonment
in a state prison for 16 months, 24 months, or 3 years.
- PC 186.22(b) – California’s gang sentencing enhancement subjects
defendant’s to additional mandatory terms of imprisonment for committing
a felony that benefits a street gang. This enhancement is in addition
to any penalties for the felony crime that was committed. The sentence
for the gang enhancement, which can range between 2 to 15 years or up
to 25 to life, will run consecutively to the sentence for the underlying felony.
PC 186.22 enforces very tough penalties for gang members and for any individual
who acts for the benefit of a gang, even if they are not a gang member
themselves. These penalties can also be considerably enhanced if a defendant
has a criminal history or prior convictions for street terrorism. It is
important to remember that PC 186.22 is commonly charged in addition to
other felony crimes, which can raise the stakes in a criminal case and
subject defendants to even more time behind bars.
Because the gang sentencing enhancement requires proof that a person has
gang ties, there is ample opportunity to effectively argue against the
enhancement and have it dropped. This can include proving that someone
is not an active participant of a gang or did not act for the benefit
of a gang, among other defense strategies. Any case involving the gang
sentencing enhancement should be treated as seriously as possible.
There are a number of legal elements the prosecution is required to prove,
and by working with an experienced lawyer, you can effectively challenge
any and all of their arguments. It is the government’s responsibility
to prove these elements beyond a reasonable doubt, and is your right to
challenge the government’s version of the facts. You can do this
by choosing proven legal representation with a reputation for effective
defense strategies and for fighting aggressively on behalf of clients.
Attorney Jacqueline Goodman has just this reputation. As an Orange County
criminal defense attorney with over 20 years of experience focusing solely on
criminal defense, Ms. Goodman understands California’s gang crime laws and how to
effectively fight for clients charged with serious crimes. If you would
like to discuss your case during a free consultation,
contact us today.