California's Criminal Street Gang Laws
In the Golden State, no matter what type of criminal offense you are accused of, you can also face further charges if the prosecution believes your crime was committed as a member and for the benefit of a criminal street gang. Known as gang enhancements, these additional charges are very serious and can increase your potential penalties dramatically. If you face gang enhancements, call Okabe & Haushalter immediately for the powerful defense needed to protect your rights and fight for your freedoms.
What is a criminal street gang?
California penal code 186.22 defines a criminal street gang as any formal or informal group, association, or organization of three or more people that
- Have as one of their primary activities the commission of criminal acts
- Share the same name or the same identifying signs or symbols
- Consists of members who collectively or individual engage in or have previously engaged in a pattern of criminal activity
Gang crimes can involve a number of offenses, but some of the most common include graffiti, theft, robbery, burglary, extortion, criminal threats, street terrorism, assault, battery, harassment, drug crimes, and murder. Many of these offenses are felonies, which carry heavy fines and lengthy prison sentences. In many gang crime cases, the defendant is charged with committing multiple crimes. Conviction for more than one offense can be dire because of the state's Three Strikes Law. Each conviction for a serious felony will result in another strike, and once you have three strikes on your criminal record, the judge could decide to automatically sentence you to 25 years to life in prison. The consequences of being found guilty can be devastating, which is why you must enlist an experienced defense attorney immediately.
Understanding Gang Enhancements
In order to successfully charge you with the enhancements, the prosecution will need to present sufficient evidence of your involvement with a criminal street gang. The prosecutor may attempt to do so by presenting your past arrest records and convictions to the court, the records of your associates, pictures of your tattoos, evidence of your known associations or friendships with members of a specific gang, and other examples.
Penal code 186.22 allows for the increased punishment of a defendant who is found guilty of committing a felony at the direction of, for the benefit of, or in association with a gang for the specific purpose of promoting, assisting, or furthering the gang in its criminal activities. Depending on the circumstances of your case, you could be charged with either a misdemeanor or a felony.
- Misdemeanor gang enhancement: additional sentence of up to 1 year in a county jail
- Felony gang enhancement: additional sentence of 16 months to 3 years in a state prison
Charged with a gang crime?
If you are facing additional penalties for your alleged involvement in a criminal street gang, do not hesitate to retain the powerful representation of our firm. We can provide your case with aggressive advocacy and knowledgeable counsel needed to effectively address your charges. Our attorneys have successfully defended clients throughout the Los Angeles area, and our understanding of the law and prosecution strategies helps us build detailed and compelling defenses. The firm's lead attorneys, Ryan Okabe and Mark Haushalter have both been included in Super Lawyers® Southern California Rising Stars℠ list for numerous years, a testament to their success and dedication to their clients.
We understand how frustrating it is to be saddled with these additional penalties, and you can be confident that our firm will fight relentlessly against your enhancements. With so much on the line, you cannot risk your case to a disinterested public defender. Contact our team as soon as possible to discuss your case and learn more about your legal options.