California imposes strict punishments on gang-related crimes. If you have been charged with a gang crime, it is imperative that you contact an experienced California criminal defense attorney.
Both California and Federal Law Punish Gang Crimes Harshly
In the United States, there are two bodies of law – State and Federal. With regards to gang crimes, both California (state) and federal law impose strict penalties. This is because both bodies of law allow for sentencing “enhancements.” An “enhancement” is an increase. An enhanced punishment may be ordered by a court for a gang crime conviction even if you are not officially a member of a gang. Committing a crime on behalf of a gang or as an attempt to become a member of gang is enough.
On the state level, the law that provides for sentencing enhancement for gang crimes in California is Penal Code 186.22 PC. Under this law, anyone who commits a felony crime to benefit a gang is subject to an enhanced prison sentence. Importantly, the concept of “benefit” requires specific intent. Specific intent is a legal doctrine that pertains to state of mind. In other words, to be guilty of committing a crime for the benefit of a gang, you must intend to promote, further, or aid in the gang’s criminal activities. If specific intent is proven in court, an enhanced sentence is proper under California law.
On the federal level, the law that provides for sentencing enhancement for gang crimes in California and the other 49 states is 18 USC 521 – the Criminal Street Gangs law. The federal Criminal Street Gangs statute authorizes a penalty enhancement of as many as 10 years for gang members who commit crimes in furtherance of the criminal activities of a gang, or simply to maintain or improve his or her place in the gang. The enhancement is not merely an extension of the penalty for the underlying crime, but an additional punishment. For example, if a gang member commits the felony of armed robbery, he or she will be punished both for the felony and for committing the felony to further the gang’s activities. As you can see from both the state and federal laws, gang-related crimes are punished extremely harshly in the U.S.
An Experienced Criminal Defense Attorney Can Defend You Against Gang Crime Charges in California
With enhanced punishment meted out for conviction of gang crimes in California, you need an experienced California criminal defense attorney to protect your legal rights and defend against the charges levied by state and/or federal law. To convict you of a gang crime, the prosecutor must prove that you committed the underlying crime, that you were a member of a gang, that the gang actually meets the criteria of a recognized criminal gang, and that you committed the underlying crime in furtherance of the gang’s activities. An experienced California criminal defense attorney will explore all avenues of reasonable doubt and work to protect your rights.