Los Angeles Gang Crime Defense Lawyer

Gang Crime Defense

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Los Angeles Gang Crime Defense Attorney

Gang crime cases are taken very seriously by prosecutors and law enforcement in Los Angeles, California, yet many residents are unsure of what constitutes a gang crime. Many individuals believe that being in a gang at all means that you’re committing criminal acts, but that’s not the case according to California law. The definition of a gang has also caused many to misunderstand the severity of gang crimes, and some people who are charged with a gang crime, such as murder or vandalism, don’t understand what this entails. Fortunately, we’re here to help.

The Law Office of Jacqueline Goodman has worked with several clients over the years who were charged with gang crimes in the Los Angeles area. Our team is ready to use our experience and knowledge of California law to fight for your rights. The penalties for gang crimes can be significant, and if you believe you’re innocent, we want to help you eliminate those penalties.

What Is a Gang?

Under California Penal Code Section 186.22, a gang is described as an ongoing organization, group, or association of at least three people. A gang typically has a common symbol or sign, and its primary goal is to perform criminal acts collectively or separately to benefit the gang. While there are no specific offenses that are associated with gangs, some crimes are found to be common with gangs in California. These include:

  • Sex crimes
  • Robbery
  • Carjacking
  • Arson
  • Murder and assault
  • Burglary
  • Drug crimes
  • And more

If prosecutors can prove that the people charged with crimes belong to a gang, their punishments will increase as a result.

Are All Gangs the Same?

Not every gang is the same, and some gangs commit different crimes from other gangs entirely. For example, some gangs participate only in burglary and robbery due to their poor financial state, whereas other gangs kill other people for other reasons. Some gang charges are too severe for gangs who don’t commit more heinous crimes, and many law firms, including ours, attempt to combat this.

Proving That Someone Belongs to a Gang

If a prosecutor believes that someone committed criminal activities due to being in a gang, they must have specific evidence. For example, the person has to have actively participated in a gang and knew beforehand that they were engaging in criminal activity. Finally, they have to have chosen to help the gang commit these crimes willingly. Should someone fit each of these descriptors, their penalties could change.

There may be cases where someone isn’t a gang member, yet hangs out with gangs. If they become arrested for a crime that fits recent cases of gang activities, the prosecution team may deem that they were actively participating with the gang, therefore increasing their penalties.

In a general sense, being in a gang and being guilty of a crime are not the same things. While you can prove that you don’t belong to a gang, this is a challenging process that can result in additional time in prison if unsuccessful. False charges get brought up frequently in the state, but having a Los Angeles criminal defense attorney at your side can help you combat them.

The STEP Act

Also known as the California Street Terrorism Enforcement and Prevention Act, the STEP Act was created in 1988 to oppose gang activity in California. This is where the Penal Code 186.22 comes in, as this is what determines if someone is arrested for gang-related activities. It adds additional time to a prison sentence as well as additional penalties.

Crucially, you don’t have to be an active gang member to violate the STEP Act, as hanging out with a gang and still committing crimes can result in gang crime charges. If you commit a felony that violates the STEP Act, you can face penalties solely for people who violate the gang enhancement laws. Felonies of this nature include sex crimes, violent crimes, and assault.

Penalties for Gang Crimes

If you’re involved in a gang crime case, and are considered to have violated the STEP Act, you can face punishments including:

  • Up to one year in county jail
  • Anywhere from 16 months to three years in state prison, depending on the situation

If you commit a felony crime as part of a gang, your punishments can include:

  • Additional prison time on top of the default amount
  • Two to 15 years for a conviction
  • A life sentence in prison

Also, misdemeanor charges can increase to felony charges if the misdemeanor was done to benefit a gang. However, a prosecutor cannot add the gang sentencing enhancement to the felony, meaning that you cannot serve life in prison, for example.

How Can I Defend Myself?

While it’s technically possible to defend yourself in court against gang crimes, it’s highly advised that you speak with a Los Angeles criminal defense attorney instead. In fact, no matter if you commit a drug crime, gang-related crime, or anything that’s considered a criminal act, you should speak with legal representation immediately.

Criminal defense attorneys examine your entire situation and determine if there are any aspects of your case that don’t align. For example, if an officer did not follow proper procedure after an arrest, an attorney can use this to throw out your case. A lawyer can use one of the following defenses to combat your charges:

  • You were not a gang member and did not participate in gang activities.
  • You didn’t commit the crime you are accused of.
  • Your actions did not benefit a gang.

To be convicted of a gang crime, prosecutors must prove that you had a gang affiliation. If they cannot prove this, you cannot be punished according to the STEP Act. Also, some prosecutors attempt to push gang-related charges on people, whether improperly or inappropriately. Having an attorney by your side can ensure that they call out this fact and hold them accountable, something you may struggle to do on your own.


Q: What Are the Gang Laws in California?

A: If you commit a crime as part of a gang in California, you can be subject to increased penalties, including more time spent in prison. Your crime must have benefitted a gang, which is an organization whose members share a symbol or sign and commit crimes together or separately to benefit their group. California has created several laws, including the STEP Act, to combat gang crimes in the state.

Q: How Much Time Can You Get for Gang Enhancement?

A: One aspect of the STEP Act includes a gang enhancement clause. This enhancement means that a judge can add at least two years of prison time to your charges if you are found to be actively participating in a gang. This depends on your specific situation, and the total time in prison can last anywhere from three years to life if your crime is a felony. However, a prosecutor must prove that you were involved in a gang.

Q: Do Gang Members Get Harsher Sentences?

A: Generally speaking, any gang member who commits a crime to benefit their gang will receive a harsher sentence than someone who has no connection to a gang. For example, if an individual robs a store, their penalties won’t be as severe as a gang member who robbed a store. This is because of California’s strict opposition to gangs, including the creation of the STEP Act. While there may be exceptions, gang members can receive harsher sentences.

Q: What Defenses Can Be Used Against the Prosecution Team?

A: If you can prove that you didn’t commit the crime in question, that you have no gang affiliation, or that the gang in question doesn’t fit California’s definition of a street gang, then you can use these defenses to have your penalties lessened or eliminated. However, this isn’t guaranteed, and it is difficult to achieve this by yourself. Hiring a criminal defense attorney beforehand may be beneficial in your case.

We Can Defend You Against Gang Crime Charges

It can be tricky to discern normal crimes from gang crimes, and you may be overwhelmed by the prospect of heightened punishments. Navigating any legal matter is difficult, and prosecutors may intimidate you into believing that you are part of a gang. While anyone who is arrested for criminal activity has rights that they’re entitled to, they may not know this or don’t know how they can use them. No matter what your situation entails, it’s wise to speak with an attorney before you say anything in front of a judge. If you live in or near Los Angeles and are charged with a gang crime, we can help.

The Law Office of Jacqueline Goodman understands how detailed and complicated California law can be, but we’ve studied it all extensively. We can use our experience to help you understand your situation and find a way forward. Depending on your scenario, you may be able to have your charges dropped or lessened if we can prove that you have no gang affiliation.

To learn more about your options, contact our team today.

Make The Right call

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While charges such as DUI and drug possession are common across the country, it's difficult to find a criminal defense attorney who has thorough experience with serious crimes such as manslaughter or human trafficking. When the stakes are so high, you need the experienced, expert criminal defense services of Attorney Jacqueline Goodman.

She combats your charges head-on by utilizing a variety of strategies and working tirelessly to come to a favorable result. If it can be proved that a search was made illegally or you were arrested improperly, your case could be dismissed, for example. Each case is unique, so she uses a unique approach to evaluate and perfect each one. With her help, you could avoid the heavy fines and prison time of a criminal conviction.

Put your trust in a proven criminal defense lawyer

Attorney Jacqueline Goodman has more than 20 years of experience in criminal defense. As the President of California Attorneys for Criminal Justice and the standalone vice chair of the Sex Offenses division of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, she has been at the forefront of criminal law in California and across the nation.
Initial consultations are free at The Law Offices of Jacqueline Goodman in Orange County because everyone deserves a chance to defend themselves. Call (714) 879-5770 now.

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Winning Results.

Protecting yourself in the face of criminal accusations or charges is serious and, when it comes to your defense, experience counts. Attorney Goodman has tried countless cases and achieved numerous successful outcomes for her clients. She was at the forefront of several high-profile cases, including the murder of an MLB pitcher and the widely known free speech case known as the “Irvine 11.” Browse some of Attorney Goodman’s recent case results to learn more about her exceptional track record.

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criminal car accident

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case dismissed

Case dismissed

criminal car accident

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case dismissed

Case dismissed

criminal car accident

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case dismissed

Case dismissed

criminal car accident

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