In states across the country, it is not illegal to become involved with a gang – seeing as no crimes have been committed just by joining. However, many states have enacted laws that target gang affiliation as a way to prohibit people from joining. Gangs in California are known to have a common name, an identifying symbol, a sign, and multiple members. The federal government does not have laws against gang affiliation, but it does have something known as the Racketeer Influence and Corrupt Organization (RICO) statute, which prosecutes people for operating an unlawful business. Usually, this takes organized crime into consideration.
In many other states, like Georgia and Texas, it is completely illegal for anybody to form or associate with a street gang. In other states, they prohibit people from wearing gang-related apparel while on school grounds. In states like Florida, it is illegal to intentionally cause somebody to join a street gang, making recruitment illegal. In many other states, such as California, there is something known as ‘gang enhancement’ laws. When a criminal defendant is charged with a crime related to their gang, a gang enhancement charge will follow. This can have a huge impact on a misdemeanor conviction. This would require a mandatory 180 day jail stay, instead of possibly going home. This is a crime that you want to avoid at any cost.
Penal Code 186.22 is the crime of participation in a gang, and makes it a crime to participate in any street gang or commit crimes with other gang members. The crime of participating in a gang can carry sixteen months, two years, or three years in prison depending on the circumstances of your crime and whether or not it was a felony. California law, through the STEP Act, punishes gang members more harshly than those who commit a crime without gang ties.
In some cases, it is not easy to bring a legal defense against a gang crime. Your only choices for defenses are claiming that you did not commit the crime, that you are not an active gang participant, that you weren’t working for a gang’s benefit, or you believe that the prosecutor is illegally using sentence enhancement laws. You will need our help if you have been charged with a gang-related crime, as you could suffer harsh penalties under California law. Call us today for more information.