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Criminal Defense Attorney in Riverside CA Gregory H. Comings

Gang Crimes

The primary statute prohibiting criminal street gang activity in California is Penal Code § 186.22. Have you been charged with gang crimes? Simply participating in the criminal activity of a gang is a punishable offense; the penalty increases if the prosecution proves that you performed the Act for the benefit of a gang.

The Law Office of Gregory H. Comings can help you with superior legal representation in the event of a gang crime charge. It is terrifying to be accused of any serious crime, especially if it is a gang crime. Call the Law Office of Gregory H. Comings today to begin the discussion on your defense. You will need a criminal defense lawyer in Riverside, CA, that can handle all felonies and misdemeanours and has proven experience in the field.

What is Gang Crime in California?

Under California law, gang crime refers to criminal activities committed by individuals associated with or affiliated with a criminal street gang. Gang crime is a severe offense in California, and the state has specific laws and penalties to address and deter such criminal behavior.

California’s primary law targeting gang crime is the Street Terrorism Enforcement and Prevention Act (STEP Act), codified in the California Penal Code sections 186.20-186.33. The STEP Act provides a comprehensive framework for identifying, prosecuting, and punishing individuals involved in gang-related criminal activity.

Any ongoing organization, association, or group of three or more people, whether formal or informal, that shares a common name, signs, symbols, or other identifying marks and whose members individually or collectively engage in criminal activity is considered a criminal street gang under the STEP Act. The Act acknowledges that criminal street gangs’ fundamental motivation is the commission of illegal acts and the promotion of a climate of fear within the community.

The list of crimes that can be indicted as “gang-related” under California law includes, but is not limited to:

Joining a Gang: Active membership in a criminal street gang with the aim to promote, further, or aid in any criminal action by the gang is illegal in the state of California. While membership in a gang itself is not illegal, it can increase the consequences for committing crimes linked with the gang.

Gang Enhancement: Under the STEP Act, if an individual commits a felony offense for the benefitof, at the direction of, or in involvement with a criminal street gang, the penalties for that offense can be enhanced. This means that the punishment for the underlying offense can be increased if it is determined to be gang-related.

Gang Conspiracy: Engaging in a conspiracy to commit a crime on behalf of a criminal street gang is also a criminal offense. If individuals conspire to commit a crime and one or more members of the conspiracy are active gang participants, they can face charges related to gang conspiracy.

Gang-related Offenses: Gang-related offenses include a wide range of crimes, such as assault, robbery, drug trafficking, extortion, firearm offenses, murder, and other violent crimes associated with a criminal street gang. These offenses carry severe penalties, and their punishment is enhanced when proven to be gang-related.

California law enforcement agencies and prosecutors actively investigate and prosecute gang-related crimes. They often rely on evidence such as gang affiliations, tattoos, clothing, photographs, witness statements, and social media activity to establish an individual’s involvement in gang-related criminal activity.

Penalties for gang-related crimes can be severe. If convicted of a gang-related offense, an individual may face enhanced prison sentences, probation with stringent conditions, substantial fines, and other consequences. Additionally, gang membership can lead to restrictions on employment, housing, and other opportunities even after completing a sentence.

It is important to note that the legal framework surrounding gang crime in California is complex, and specific circumstances can significantly impact the application of the law. If you or someone you know is facing charges related to gang crime, it is crucial to consult with a knowledgeable criminal defense attorney who can provide guidance based on the case’s specific facts.

What Are Some Common Defenses Used In Cases Involving Gang-Related Offenses?

Several defenses may be employed to contest the charges or mitigate the potential penalties in California cases involving gang-related offenses. It’s important to note that these defenses’ viability depends on each case’s specific circumstances. Here are some common defenses used in gang-related offense cases:

Lack of Gang Membership: If the prosecution alleges gang membership as an element of the offense, one defense strategy is challenging or casting doubt on the defendant’s association with the criminal street gang. This may involve presenting evidence that the defendant does not meet the legal criteria for gang membership or establishing an absence of active participation or intent to further the gang’s criminal activities.

Insufficient Evidence: A defense attorney may reason that the prosecution has failed to present sufficient evidence to prove the defendant’s involvement in the alleged gang-related offense. This could involve challenging the credibility or reliability of witnesses, disputing the interpretation of gang-related symbols or signs, or pointing out weaknesses in the prosecution’s case.

Coerced or False Confessions: In some cases, defendants may have made self-incriminating statements or confessions under duress, coercion, or in violation of their constitutional rights. A defense strategy could involve challenging the admissibility of these statements and seeking to suppress them as evidence.

Alibi: If the defendant can provide credible evidence that they were not present at the alleged crime scene, they may assert an alibi defense. This defense seeks to establish that the defendant had no opportunity to commit the offense and was elsewhere at the time.

Self-Defense or Justification: Sometimes, a defendant may argue that their alleged involvement in the gang-related offense was in self-defense or justified under the circumstances. This defense asserts that the defendant’s actions were necessary to protect themselves or others from imminent harm or danger.

Lack of Corroboration: If the prosecution relies heavily on the testimony of witnesses who are members of law enforcement or informants, a defense attorney may challenge the credibility of these witnesses. They may argue that there is a lack of independent corroboration for their testimony, thus undermining its reliability.

Fourth Amendment Violations: If law enforcement conducted an illegal search or seizure violating the defendant’s Fourth Amendment rights, a defense attorney may move to suppress any evidence obtained because of the unlawful actions. This defense aims to exclude incriminating evidence from being admitted at trial.

What Are the Potential Consequences of Being Convicted of Gang Crime in California?

Being convicted of gang-related offenses in California can result in severe penalties. The specific penalties hinge on on the nature and severity of the offense, the defendant’s criminal history, and other factors. Here are potential penalties commonly associated with gang crime convictions in California:

Enhanced Sentences: Gang enhancements under the Street Terrorism Enforcement and Prevention Act (STEP Act) can significantly increase the penalties for the underlying offense. These enhancements add additional prison time to the sentence, often ranging from several years to life in prison, depending on the offense.

Juvenile Offenders: For individuals who commit gang-related offenses while under the age of 18, they may be subject to the juvenile justice system. The penalties for juvenile offenders include probation, placement in a juvenile detention facility, counseling, community service, and other rehabilitative measures. However, gang-related severe offenses committed by juveniles may result in their transfer to adult court, where they can face adult penalties.

Imprisonment: Convictions for gang-related offenses can lead to substantial prison sentences. The length of imprisonment depends on the offense committed, ranging from a few years to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole in severe crimes like murder.

Fines: Gang-related convictions can result in substantial fines. The exact amount varies based on the offense and can range from thousands to tens of thousands of dollars.

Probation: In some cases, a court may impose probation as an alternative to imprisonment. However, probation for gang crime offenses is often stringent and subject to strict conditions, including mandatory gang prevention programs, regular check-ins with probation officers, restrictions on associating with known gang members, and limitations on travel and activities.

Parole: If a convicted individual is sentenced to prison and later released, they may be subject to parole supervision. Parole typically involves regular check-ins with a parole officer, adherence to specific conditions, and restrictions on behavior and activities.

Enhanced Penalties for Firearms: If a gang-related offense involves using or possessing firearms, additional penalties may apply under California’s firearms laws. These penalties can include mandatory minimum sentences and enhanced prison terms.

Gang Injunctions: In some instances, the court may issue gang injunctions, which impose restrictions on the activities and movements of gang members within specific areas. Violation of a gang injunction can lead to contempt of court charges and additional penalties.

Collateral Consequences: Besides the direct penalties, a gang-related conviction can result in collateral consequences. These may include limitations on employment opportunities, housing restrictions, loss of certain rights (such as the right to possess firearms), and damage to personal and professional reputation.

Three Strikes Law: California has a “Three Strikes” law that imposes harsher penalties for individuals with prior serious or violent felony convictions. If a gang-related offense is considered a “strike” offense, it can lead to an increased sentence under the Three Strikes law. A third-strike offense can result in a mandatory sentence of 25 years to life in prison.

RICO Act: In some instances involving organized criminal activity, federal laws such as the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act may come into play. RICO prosecutions can involve various charges, including conspiracy, racketeering, and money laundering. Convictions under RICO can result in lengthy prison sentences, substantial fines, and the forfeiture of assets.

Collaborative Justice Courts: California has implemented Collaborative Justice Courts, also known as “gang courts,” in certain jurisdictions. These specialized courts aim to address gang-related offenses through strict supervision, intensive rehabilitation programs, and community resources. The goal is to provide alternatives to incarceration and reduce recidivism among gang-involved individuals.

The Law Office of Gregory H. Comings understands the severity of these cases and is well-equipped to represent your interests. We ensure our clients’ rights are protected and work hard to have their charges dropped or reduced. Our team brings extensive knowledge of California’s extremely strict gang laws, giving us the advantage when defending our clients’ futures. Find a trustworthy Riverside gang crimes defense attorney at the Law Office of Gregory H. Comings, who will help you achieve the best possible outcome for your case. Reach out today for an appointment at (951) 686-3457.  


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