Newport Beach Gang Attorneys
Orange County, California laws punish gang members and associated members of gangs more harshly than people who do not have gang ties.
Penal Code 186.22 PC is a portion of the California Street Terrorism Enforcement and Prevention Act, and is commonly known as California’s Street Gang Enhancement Law. In its essence, the law states that any individual who commits a felony on behalf of a gang organization will incur mandatory prison sentencing in addition to the sentencing that follows the crime committed.
Depending on the circumstances of the crime committed, an additional 25 years to life in prison could be incurred. Even if you are not a participant or a member of a gang, you can still be convicted and share the same consequences and sentencing. The gang crimes defense lawyers at Corrigan | Welbourn | Stokke work to ensure that a street gang sentencing is removed from the crime.
Penal Code 186.22(a) is referred to as California’s “active and knowing participation in a criminal street gang” law. This law states that prosecution must prove that the individual accused of a gang crime sentencing was aware of these three elements:
- The individual actively participated in a gang;
- with the understanding that its members engaged in patterns of criminal gang activity;
- while promoting, furthering or assisting in felonies committed by that gang.
If these elements are proven, the individual can face a misdemeanor which is punishable by a maximum 1 year county jail sentence, or a felony which is punishable by 16 months (maximum 3 years) in the California State Prison.
Actively and knowingly participating in a criminal street gang is a crime in and of itself, regardless if you commit a crime while associating with that gang. California law targets individuals who have the intent and objective to further, promote or assist a gang in its criminal activity. This law also applies to anyone who aids or abets the individual, not just the one who directly commits the crime.
To be considered an active participant in a gang, an individual must be involved more nominally than passively. However, the prosecution does not need to prove that you devote some or all of your time to a gang. The prosecution also does not need to prove that you are necessarily a member of the gang.
“Criminal Street Gang”
Any ongoing organization, association, or group of three or more individuals, whether formally or informally, that commits crimes as a primary activity is identified as a criminal street gang. Elements of a criminal street gang include: a common name, an identifying symbol or sign, and members that individually or collectively engaged in patterns of criminal gang activity.
“Pattern of criminal gang activity”
The “pattern of criminal gang activity” simply means that the commission, attempted commission, conspiracy, solicitation or conviction of two or more specific criminal offenses that take place with a certain time frame, that are committed by two or more people.
A “primary” activity means that the activity in which the group or organization practices are criminal offenses. Occasional crimes committed by the group are excluded in “primary” activities.
“Promote, further, or assist in felonious conduct”
The prosecutor must prove either directly and actively committed a felony crime or aided and abetted felonious conduct by members of a gang to prove that an individual “promoted, furthered or assisted in felonious conduct.” California law does not have a requirement for prosecution to prove that an individual participated in or aided and abetted another person in felonious conduct before the underlying felony offense.
Sentencing Enhancement Law
Penal Code 186.22(b) PC increases the punishment for “any person who is convicted of a felony committed for the benefit of, at the direction of, or in association with any criminal street gang, and with the specific intent to promote, further, or assist in any criminal conduct by gang members.” Additional sentencing is dependent on the underlying felony that was committed. Another consideration is whether the felony offense took place in a school zone, or within 1,000 feet of a public or private school. This is an aggravating circumstance that the judge may consider when determining sentence length.
There are several ways the criminal defense lawyers at Corrigan | Welbourn | Stokke can fight your Penal Code 186.22 charges. Some defenses include:
- Fight the underlying felony – you can’t receive criminal street gang sentencing enhancement if the underlying felony allegations are successfully challenged.
- Prove that you are not an “active participant” – unless you have obvious markings like tattoos on your body that identify your gang membership, we can dispute the allegations of your active participation.
- You weren’t acting for the “benefit” of the gang – you can avoid sentencing enhancement if you can prove that your acts were not associated/commissioned by gang activity.
If you have been arrested or charged with gang crime activity, call Corrigan | Welbourn | Stokke. We will fight to make sure that you do not receive sentencing enhancement.
Corrigan | Welbourn | Stokke is located in Orange County and represents surrounding areas including Newport Beach, Westminster, Santa Ana, and Fullerton. Call Corrigan | Welbourn | Stokke today to schedule a free case evaluation.