California has had pretty severe issues with street gang activity throughout the past few decades. This serious problem led the state legislature to pass the California Street Terrorism Enforcement and Prevention Act. This legislation not only makes street gang activity illegal, it also introduces serious sentence enhancements for even aiding in the commission of crimes committed by street gangs.
While counties are still allowed to set their own bail amounts related to this activity, the State of California provides the sentences that must be handed out in relation to the crime. The penalties associated with street gang activity are so severe that a good attorney should be sought out as quickly as possible. Contact the nearest Bail Hotline office to discuss posting a bond for your release, at only a fraction of the face bail amount.
What the Law Says
California Penal Code 186 defines exactly what constitutes illegal gang activity, as well as the corresponding penalties. The first part of this law makes it a crime to knowingly participate in a street gang. It goes on to state that if you actively participate in a gang that you know engages in criminal activity and promotes, assists or furthers any felonious activity of that gang, you are guilty of a crime. This crime can be considered a felony or misdemeanor, and it makes the mere act of being in a gang illegal.
The law also sets forth sentencing enhancements for people who commit felonies that are associated with criminal gangs. This means that if a gang directed a person to commit a felony, the defendant will face a sentence enhancement. A sentence enhancement will also be attached if the crime was done to benefit, promote, assist or was in association with illegal gang activity. These enhancements apply even if a person isn’t an active member of the gang.
Serious Bail Amounts
The individual counties of California set forth their own bail amounts for these crimes, and they vary widely. Santa Clara County sets bail for a serious felony related to street gangs at twenty-five thousand dollars. Los Angeles County sets it a bit higher, at forty thousand dollars. Santa Barbara County takes the crime even more seriously; they set the bail amount for any felony benefiting a gang at $100,000.
Penalties and Consequences
The penalties associated with being in a street gang, or committing a felony for their benefit, can also be quite variable. A person convicted of simply being a part of a criminal street gang can face a misdemeanor that will bring one year in jail, or a felony that will lead to between sixteen months and three years in prison.
The enhancements related to gang activity are even more serious. Committing a felony related to a criminal gang that isn’t considered a serious or violent felony will bring a sentence enhancement of two to four years. Committing a crime that is considered a serious felony will fetch an enhancement of five years. Serious felonies include, but aren’t limited to, making criminal threats, shooting at an occupied home or car and assault with a deadly weapon against a peace officer.
Violent felonies bring an even greater enhancement. Some crimes are considered violent and serious, and in these cases the more severe enhancement is usually given. The commission of a violent felony related to gang activity brings a sentence enhancement of ten years. All of these enhancements have to be served in addition and consecutively to the penalty related to the underlying felony.
A few specific felonies can bring even greater sentencing enhancements. Home invasion robbery, carjacking and committing drive-by shootings could all subject a person to life imprisonment. Also, if any felony was committed within one thousand feet of a school zone, the accused faces an aggravating factor that could make their sentence extremely harsh.
Criminal street gang activity is taken very serious in California. The law actually specifies that 328 gang-related murders occurred in 1986 and that this statistic was rising. These laws are meant to protect the public safety, but unfortunately, they sometimes affect people who have no relation whatsoever to criminal gangs. If a person is charged with any serious crime, especially if the prosecutor is adding street gang enhancements, it is important for them to contact a lawyer immediately.