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What are Gang Sentencing Enhancements in California?

California law specifically addresses gang-related crimes in several ways, and one way is by providing sentencing enhancements for offenses that are somehow tied to gang activity. Participating in a gang is a crime in itself, and the law penalizes assisting in any type of felony offenses committed by members of a street gang. There is also another aspect of the law that increases the sentence for felony offenses when they are committed for the benefit of a street gang. 

If you are facing any type of gang-related charge or possible enhancement, you should speak with a Riverside gang crimes lawyer as soon as possible. 

Increased Sentencing

California law provides punishments for felony offenses and, in addition, provides that those defendants accused of committing the crime as part of gang activity will face additional penalties. Gang-related crimes result in a mandatory prison sentence, which is added to the penalties for the underlying felony offenses. The sentence enhancement might add a mandatory two, 15, or even 25 years to a prison sentence, even if you only assisted in the felony or do not consider yourself to be a full member of a gang. 

The STEP Act provides much harsher punishments for people who are in gangs or who otherwise associate with gangs. For example:

  1. You are arrested for possession of a controlled substance with the intent to distribute or sell. The prosecutor alleges that you are also part of a street gang that conducts drug trafficking operations. For this reason, you are charged with both the underlying drug crime and participation in gang-related crime. This can result in a much longer prison sentence if you are convicted.
  1. You are not a member of a gang, but your boyfriend is a member. You are with him one day and help him threaten someone who has a debt to the gang. You are arrested with your boyfriend and face extortion charges with an enhanced sentence for extortion due to the conduct being for the benefit of your boyfriend’s gang.

Defending Against Enhanced Sentencing

When the prosecution accuses you of being a gang member or committing a crime to benefit a street gang, you have the right to defend against these enhanced charges or mandatory sentences. Your Riverside criminal defense attorney can determine the best way to defend against these accusations. 

Some defense strategies might include:

  1. You are not guilty of committing the underlying felony offense
  2. You are not an active member of a street gang
  3. You did not commit an offense to benefit a gang
  4. The prosecutor is otherwise misapplying the enhanced sentence to your case

Contact a Riverside Gang Crimes Lawyer Today

Some counties in California are no longer using the gang enhancements, but most still try to impose harsher penalties if someone is suspected to be involved with a street gang. At DeLimon Law, a Riverside gang crimes lawyer can help you defend against criminal charges and any additional enhancements. Call 951-777-9104 or contact us online for more information about our defense services.

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