The term “gang” is widely known across the US, with references to Bloods, Crips, MS-13, 18th Street and others in the media, pop culture, and other sources. But how does California define gang and gang activity as it relates to the law? Broadly speaking, a gang is a group of people with a common identifier and who band together to commit crimes. Crimes committed with or for gangs, or gang activity, are taken seriously in California and can result in severe penalties in addition to standard sentencing for the crimes committed.
If you have been arrested or accused of California gang activity, speak to an experienced criminal defense attorney at Dod Law. Attorney Dod Ghassemkhani has defended over 6,500 criminal cases and is well-versed in the complexities of the California legal system that may make a substantial difference in the outcome of your case.
California Gang Activity Laws
The California Penal Code section 186.22 provides a legal definition of “gang” and “gang activity,” defining it as:
- An ongoing group, organization, or association of three or more people
- Have a common name or common identifying sign or symbol
- The primary activity is to commission one or more criminal acts described in the California Penal Code 186.22 (e)
- Members separately or collectively engage or engaged in criminal activity
Penal Code Section 186.22 (e) describes examples of criminal acts and criminal gang activity that are commonly associated with California gangs:
- Assault with a deadly weapon
- Unlawful homicide or manslaughter
- Selling, possession with the intent to sell, transportation and manufacture, offer to sell or offer to manufacture a controlled substance
- Shooting at an inhabited residence or occupied vehicle
- Unleashing or permitting to unleash a firearm from a motor vehicle
- The intimidation of witnesses and victims
- Grand theft of any firearm, vehicle, vessel, or trailer
- Money laundering
California and federal law issues harsher penalties to gang members who are convicted of felonies than to non-gang members who commit similar crimes, including:
- Felony sentencing enhancements
- Laws deeming it a crime to commit serious offenses on behalf of a gang, or in order to get into, or to maintain or improve one’s status in a gang
Gang felony sentencing enhancements are known as California Street Terrorism Enforcement and Prevention Act (STEP). Gang members, under this act, receive up to ten additional years in jail for certain gang members who commit crimes with the intention of promoting the activities of the gang or bolstering and growing their position within the gang.
Participation in a gang or gang activity can be penalized as a misdemeanor or a felony. A misdemeanor is punishable by up to one year in jail, and a felony is punishable by 16 months or more in prison.
Overview of the California Street Terrorism Enforcement and Prevention Act
The STEP Act, or California Street Terrorism Enforcement and Prevention Act, eliminates criminal gang activity by concentrating upon practices of criminal gang activity and the organized nature of street gangs, highlighting the following:
- Participation in a criminal gang with the understanding that its members engage in criminal activity is punishable as either a misdemeanor or felony
- A conviction for a crime that was committed to facilitate or assist in criminal conduct by gang members is punished by an additional term in county jail or state prison
- A place used by gang members for the purpose of the implementation of set crimes will be considered a disturbance, whether it is a public or private establishment.
If you have been accused or arrested for gang-related activity in California, speak to an experienced criminal defense lawyer at Dod Law promptly for an assessment of your case. The penalties for gang-related crimes are more severe than non-gang-related convictions, as California law requires sentencing enhancements that can add additional jail time.
Potential California Defenses Against Gang-Related Activity
Common California legal defenses against a gang-related conviction include the following:
- You did not commit the crime you are accused of
- You are not a member of the gang
- The gang you are a part of doesn’t meet the definition of a “criminal street gang”
- You are not connected to, or in the furtherance of, the gang’s illegal activities that you were charged with
Consult an experienced criminal defense lawyer at Dod Law to learn more about your rights, possible defenses, and any potential legal options you may have. We fight to protect your rights and aggressively fight to defend your freedom.
Speak With an Experienced Criminal Defense Lawyer at Dod Law Today
If you have been arrested or accused of California gang activity, speak to a seasoned criminal defense attorney at Dod Law. Attorney Dod Ghassemkhani has successfully defended over 6,500 criminal cases and is well-versed in the complexities of the California legal system. Retaining the help of an experienced California criminal defense attorney is the best way to ensure that your rights are protected and potentially be able to get your charges and penalties reduced or dismissed.
At Dod Law, we have over 18 years of experience representing clients in California facing serious criminal charges. Attorney Dod Ghassemkhani has a successful track record of not guilty verdicts and acquittals proving his commitment to protecting his clients’ rights and freedom. Call for a complimentary consultation today at (619) 814-5110 or fill out our contact form.