Were You Charged with California Crime
Gang Activity Under Penal Code 186.22?

In 1988, California enacted legislation known as the Street Terrorism Enforcement and Prevention Act (STEP). The goal of STEP is to crack down on gang violence involving alleged members and affiliates of the Crips, the Bloods, MS-13, and other gangs and sects that are active in California.  STEP, which is commonly referred to as California’s “Street Gang Enhancement Law,” can add substantial time to gang-related felony sentences, dramatically increasing the length of an inmate’s incarceration.

If you or one of your family members has been accused of aiding or participating in gang activity in California, the criminal consequences can be dire.  When facing such serious penalties, it is critical that your legal rights are protected by a Ventura County defense attorney who has extensive experience handling gang-related criminal charges.  Turn to The Law Offices of Bamieh & De Smeth, PLC for aggressive legal representation.  Call us at (805) 643-5555 for a free consultation today.

Ventura County Criminal Lawyers Representing Defendants Charged with Gang Activity

Cal. Penal Code §186.22 provides harsh sentencing enhancements, which are explained in the next section, for a defendant who both (1) “actively participates in any criminal street gang with knowledge that its members engage in or have engaged in a pattern of criminal gang activity,” and (2) “willfully promotes, furthers, or assists in any felonious criminal conduct by members of that gang.”  For the defendant to be found guilty, the prosecutor must prove that he or she both:

  • Knew about the gang’s history or activities (acted “with knowledge”).
  • Acted deliberately (“willfully”) to help the gang commit any felony (“felonious criminal conduct”).

A “pattern of criminal gang activity” is defined to mean committing, soliciting, attempting to commit, conspiring to commit, or being convicted of at least two of the following crimes, committed by two or more people on separate occasions:

  • Aggravated Mayhem
  • Arson
  • Assault with a Deadly Weapon
  • Burglary
  • Death Threats
  • Drug Crimes:
    • Manufacture of Controlled Substances
    • Possession of Controlled Substances with Intent to Distribute
    • Sale of Controlled Substances
    • Transportation of Controlled Substances
  • Felony Extortion
  • Felony Vandalism
  • Grand Theft
  • Grand Theft of a Vehicle or Firearm
  • Gun Crimes:
    • Carrying a Concealed Firearm (Pistol, Revolver, Other)
    • Delivery or Transfer of a Firearm
    • Sale of a Firearm
  • Homicide
  • Kidnapping
  • Looting
  • Mayhem
  • Money Laundering
  • Rape
  • Robbery
  • Torture

It is not necessary to prove that the defendant is a gang member, which is not an element of the offense.  Additionally, the law may be applied to juveniles (defendants under age 18).

How California’s Street Gang Enhancement Law Affects Felony Prison Sentencing

Any defendant found guilty of violating this statute may be sentenced to state prison for 16 months, two years, or three years under Cal. Penal Code § 186.22(a).
Moreover, the following section of the statute provides that any defendant who is found guilty of a felony “committed for the benefit of, at the direction of, or in association with any criminal street gang, with the specific intent to promote, further, or assist in any criminal conduct by gang members” will receive an additional sentence of two, three, or four years, with exceptions for:

  • Serious Felonies — An additional five years can be added to the defendant’s sentence. Examples of serious felonies in California, which are listed under Cal. Penal Code § 1192.7(c), include:
    • Assault on a Police Officer with a(n):
      • Assault Weapon
      • Deadly Weapon
      • Firearm
      • Machine Gun
      • Semiautomatic Weapon
    • Assault with Intent to Commit Rape or Robbery
    • Attempted Murder
    • Bank Robbery
    • Discharge of a Firearm at an Inhabited Dwelling (Shooting at a House)
    • Mayhem
    • Murder
    • Rape
    • Robbery
    • Sale of Cocaine, Heroin, Methamphetamine, or PCP to a Minor
    • Shooting from a Vehicle (Drive-By Shooting)

Serious felonies also include any felonies punishable by a life sentence or capital punishment (the death penalty).

  • Violent Felonies — An additional 10 years can be added to the defendant’s sentence. Examples of violent felonies in California, which are listed under Cal. Penal Code § 667.5(c), include:
    • Attempted Murder
    • Carjacking
    • Extortion
    • First Degree Burglary
    • Kidnapping
    • Mayhem
    • Murder
    • Rape
    • Threatening Witnesses or Victims
    • Voluntary Manslaughter

If the underlying felony specifically involves carjacking, home invasion robbery, or discharge of a firearm at an inhabited dwelling or occupied vehicle, the prison term may be extended to 15 years.  If it involves extortion or threatening a victim or witness, the term may be extended to seven years.

Contact Our Santa Barbara Criminal Defense Attorneys for a Free Consultation

Prosecutors are extremely tough on alleged gang members and associates.  However, representation by a skilled and experienced California gang crimes lawyer gives you the best chance of having the charges dropped, having the case dismissed, or being charged with a lesser offense.

If you, your spouse, your child, or one of your relatives has been arrested for gang activity or gang violence in Santa Barbara County or Ventura County, it is in your best interests to contact a criminal attorney as soon as possible for legal help.  To set up a free legal consultation, call The Law Offices of Bamieh & De Smeth, PLC right away at (805) 643-5555.  We handle criminal cases throughout the Ventura and Santa Barbara County area, including Santa Maria, Oxnard, Lompoc, Thousand Oaks, Goleta, Simi Valley, Isla Vista, Camaraillo, Carpinteria, Moorpark, and Santa Paula.

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