California Gang Sentencing Enhancement Law
California street gangs have been a problem for a while. Not only are they present in Oakland, Los Angeles, and other major areas of the state, they’re found nearly everywhere. But the high volume of people with a gang affiliation in California is possibly due to how the state has chosen to handle gang affiliation. In fact, one news source back in 2016 found that many people were on the state’s gang database without having any real gang affiliation.
Unfortunately, for many people who are facing charges for violent crimes, they may also face the unique challenge of a gang sentencing enhancement. Of course, the purpose of this “sentencing enhancement” is to further punish the person for enacting a crime affiliated with a gang.
Common Charges That Lead to “Gang Affiliation”
Common charges that can lead to gang affiliation include violent crime, property crime, and various types of fraud. Having possession of an illegally traded weapon can lead to gang affiliation. In fact, the California code outlines that anyone who associates with members of a street gang and knows that those people have conducted gang activity can be found as “gang-affiliated.”
Common charges can include:
- Burglary or home invasion
- Violation of dress code in various cities or school districts that allude to gang affiliation
- Drug manufacturing, distribution, or possession
- Felonies committed within a certain distance of school grounds
- And more.
What Happens with Gang Sentencing Enhancement?
The gang sentencing enhancement simply adds to all underlying felonies when it comes to sentencing. If you were found guilty or even pleaded guilty to nearly any felony crime, it’s possible that the court could “enhance” the sentencing. Even in the case that you’re not a gang member, the gang sentencing enhancement could make a three to five-year sentence a twenty-year or more sentence.
What is California’s “10-20-life” Law?
During sentencing, the judge will consider the step act and then attempt to issue harsher sentencing based on suspicion of gang affiliation. Where is the justice or fairness in receiving a more severe sentence when you’re not affiliated with a gang, or when the court can’t prove any affiliation?
When they do this, they use the “step” act where initially the judge will add ten years for the first crime, 20 for the second, and any third conviction could result in life in prison.
Defenses for a Street Gang Enhancement
The best approach to a defense against the street gang enhancement is that you didn’t commit the felony you’re facing. After that, you may fight to prove that you’re not in, or affiliated with, any gang. If there’s past evidence of affiliation, you may argue that this crime had no benefit for the gang, that there’s no cause for enhanced sentencing.
Street gangs are a serious challenge that Californians regularly face. However, your neighborhood or race should not make you at a higher risk of gang sentencing enhancement. Not only should you fight the charges with full force, but also any sentencing that may occur in the event of a guilty plea or verdict. Don’t fall prey to unfair gang sentencing enhancement strategies that clearly misrepresent you.
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