Your acquaintances and friends circle may lead to harsher penalties if you find yourself charged with a criminal offense. The state of California prohibits participation in gangs. To this end, the state has implemented legislation to charge people for involvement in street gangs and enhance the penalties for crimes allegedly connected to these groups.
Understanding when and how the state may apply gang-related charges may help you protect your rights and your future.
Penalties for gang participation
According to state law, active participation in a street gang may constitute a criminal offense. The state considers criminal street gangs any informal or formal groups, associations or organizations of at least three people who engage in specified criminal acts as one of their primary activities. Joining a group, knowing the members engage in a pattern of criminal gang activity, may result in a misdemeanor or felony charge.
If convicted of participation in a criminal street gang, you may face imprisonment in county jail or state prison. Depending on various factors, the court will impose a sentence of up to one year in jail or 16-months, two years or three years in prison.
Enhanced penalties for criminal activities
Alleged gang involvement may also enhance the penalties you face if convicted of a criminal offense under certain circumstances. The court will lengthen prison terms or enact other penalty enhancements if the prosecution proves you committed the crime to benefit the gang, or that you meant to promote, assist or further criminal conduct by gang members through your commission of the crime.
You likely never considered having to defend yourself because of the people you socialize with; however, creating a solid case against gang participation and enhancement charges may involve doing just that.