What Is California’s Gang Enhancement Law?

Gang crimes are still a problem in many cities in California. State law enforcement officials still struggle with this area of criminal law and how to track down certain gang members and groups. A gang enhancement is a felony committed for the benefit of, in association with, or at the direction any criminal gang. Under Penal Code section 186.22(a) PC, only people who are “active participants” in a gang can actually be charged with a sentence enhancement, and there must be a specific intent to promote or help with any criminal act conducted by gang members.

How Is A Gang Enhancement Proven?

In order to prove that a gang enhancement is true and actually occurred, the prosecutor will have to prove two main facts about the incident.

  1. Active participation in a criminal street gang. The defendant had to actively and knowingly participate in a criminal street gang and he or she had to have known that members in the gang were participating in criminal gang activity. These crimes can include robbery, grand theft, kidnapping, rape, burglary and arson. This can also be proven under aiding or abetting a felony offense involved with a gang crime.
  2. Felony or misdemeanor committed for the benefit of criminal street gang. The defendant can also receive a gang enhancement if he or she willfully helped or promoted felony activities by members of the gang by directly committing a felony offense.

What Are the Consequences of a Gang Enhancement?

If you are charged with a felony that was done for the benefit of a gang, you could receive additional prison time depending on the severity of the crime. There are different felony classifications that affect California gang enhancement sentencing:

  • Serious felony. If your gang enhancement is established with a serious felony charge, you could face an additional five years of prison time.
  • Violent felony. If the underlying, original offense is a violent felony (murder, certain sex crimes), you could face an additional ten years in state prison.
  • Enumerated felony. There are special felonies with indeterminate sentencing that are enumerated, such as discharging a firearm, carjacking, home invasion robbery and more. You could face an additional minimum of 15 years to life in state prison.

If you have been charged with a gang enhancement crime in California, you will want an experienced criminal law attorney by your side in court. Call Hammerschmidt Law Corporation for your free initial consultation.