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In recent years, the state of California has possessed an increased amount of gang activity due to the proximity of the border between San Diego and Tijuana, Mexico. What has transpired as a result is that gang violence has spilled over into Southern California also due to immigrants migrating to Mexico to escape the gang violence in many countries in Central America. This is precisely why there have been several statutes enacted to deal with the issues surrounding gang violence in an effort to keep the gang activity outside of United States soil.
What makes the statutes around gang violence unique is that they are designed to punish those who are active participants in a gang to have their sentenced enhanced. The statute that covers this issue is Penal Code 186.22(a) PC. However, Penal Code 186.22(b) also allows sentence enhancement options for those who are not active members of a gang, but committed crimes on behalf of or for the benefit of a gang. In order for a prosecutor to successfully prove a sentence extension based on gang violence there as to be a test applied that must have all of the pertinent elements satisfied. The test that must be satisfied under Section 186.22 PC is that the defendant had to have participated in a criminal street gang, the defendant had to be aware that the gang participated in gang related criminal activities, and the defendant had to have willingly and by their own volition furthered, assisted or promoted criminal conduct by aiding and abetting the criminal offense or actively and directly committing the criminal offense. Some examples of crimes that qualify for a sentence enhancement under Section 186.22(a) are: burglary, arson, robbery, grand theft, kidnapping, and rape.
Given the seriousness of the charges there are several defense theories to be explored when one is facing a potential sentence extension due to gang involvement. That being said, it is highly recommended to retain legal counsel to explore these theories in order to ensure that you are utilizing each and every potential defense available to you. Some examples of potential defenses are: that you were not in fact acting for the benefit of the street gang, if the sentence was imposed it would be against the interests of justice, and lastly, you were not an “active participant” in the gang. All of these defenses have a change of drastically reducing or eliminating your prospective charges all together.
Thus, if you are currently facing potential sentence enhancement charges due to gang involvement, it is highly recommended that you reach out to law firms to take your case as informed counsel. Our firm works a great deal with sentence enhancement cases related to gang involvement in the greater Los Angeles area. It is best to schedule a consultation appointment with our firm to discuss the precise details of your case in order to ascertain whether we are able to take your case at this time. By doing this, you are putting your best possible foot forward to get your sentence reduced or your charges ultimately dropped so that you can move on with your life and have a fresh start. Thus, do not hesitate to contact our firm today. We would be elated to help you with your upcoming legal case.