If you have been arrested and charged with a crime and the prosecutor is accusing you of being a gang member, you need to contact a Los Angeles criminal defense attorney right away. Contact our award-winning criminal attorneys or staff members by calling 310-424-5816 to schedule a free consultation today.
In California, it is illegal to be a member of a gang because of the Street Terrorism Enforcement and Prevention Act (also known as the STEP Act). Outlined in Penal Code §186.22, the STEP Act makes it a substantive crime to be an active participant in any criminal street gang. It also creates a sentencing enhancement for felonies committed for the benefit of the gang.
If you can be connected to any street gang in California, then you face harsh charges and penalties. You need to work with an experienced and aggressive Los Angeles criminal defense attorney. To schedule a free and confidential consultation of your case, contact us today at 310-424-5816.
The Crime of Being a Gang Member
To combat street terrorism in California in the 1980s, the state legislature enacted the Street Terrorism Enforcement and Prevention Act. From the Act, lawmakers decided to punish someone for being a member of a gang in addition to any crime that person may have committed.
Under Penal Code (PC) §186.22(a), if you actively participate in any criminal street gang, with knowledge of its criminal, and who promotes criminal conduct by the gang members, you can a criminal conviction. Street terrorism is a wobbler offense, meaning it can be classified as either a misdemeanor or a felony. As such, you can be punished with up to one year in a county jail or 16 months, two years, or three years in state prison.
What is a Street Gang?
The Street Terrorism Enforcement and Prevention Act definition of a criminal street gang is vital when it comes to whether you can be charged with an offense under the law or face a sentence enhancement.
Under PC §186.22(f), a criminal street gang is any continuous, formal (or informal) group with three or more people whose main activity is “committing one or more of the predicate crimes,” who have a common name/symbol, and who participate in criminal activities on a regular basis.
Listed in PC §186.22(e)(1)-(33), predicate crimes include, but are not limited to:
- Homicide and manslaughter
- Drug crimes
- Gun crimes
- Money laundering
- Credit card crimes
Many of these offenses are considered common street gang offenses. If you face accusations of assaulting someone with a deadly weapon, causing great bodily harm, sexual battery or rape, illegal possession of a firearm, illegally discharging a gun, or trafficking drugs, the prosecutor may try to connect you to a gang so that they can punish you more severely.
Sentencing Enhancements for Gang-Related Crimes
Under Penal Code §186.22(b)(1), if you committed a crime in relation to a gang, and did so because you are in a gang, then the prosecutor is going to seek a sentence enhancement. At the court’s discretion, you can face an additional two, three, or four years in prison. Depending on the severity of your offense, the sentence could even increase by five to 10 years.
Alternative Sentencing for Public Offenses Committed to Benefit a Gang
In 2000, California passed Proposition 21. This proposition created an alternative sentencing scheme for certain gang-related offenses. Now, under PC §186.22(d), if you are convicted of a public offense, whether it is a misdemeanor or felony, and said crime was committed for a gang, you can face a felony punishment and additional incarceration. You can then face one year in county jail, or one, two, or three years in prison. However, if a misdemeanor public offense becomes a felony crime under the law, then the prosecutor cannot also add a gang-related sentencing enhancement.
Have You Been Charged With a Crime Under the Street Terrorism Enforcement and Prevention Act? Contact Us for Help
If you or a loved one have been accused of committing a gang crime or are facing a sentencing enhancement for an alleged street terrorism offense, you need an experienced Los Angeles criminal defense attorney to represent you. At Spolin Law P.C., we are experienced with charges under the STEP Act. Let us defend you. We will fight for you to not face gang-related charges. We will also strive to mitigate the consequences of any possible conviction.