The state of California can harshly penalize any individual who is accused of participating in gang-related activities. Prosecutors can utilize California Penal Code Section 186.22: Gang Enhancements to add years of time onto prison sentences if an individual is convicted of a criminal act tied to gang activity.
Focus on the specific acts that can be prosecuted under PC 186.22 right here. You can also learn more about California’s Street Terrorism Enforcement and Prevention Act (STEP) and the penalties for a PC 186.22 conviction from the Simmrin Law Group.
PC 186.22(a): Participation in a Gang
The first section of PC 186.22 makes it illegal to participate in a gang. For the purposes of PC 186.22, a gang is any group:
- With at Least 3 Members
- Who Share a Common Identifying Sign, Symbol, or Name
- With a Pattern of Engaging in Criminal Gang Activity
The group must commit crimes as a primary activity to be considered a gang in California. Individuals can only be convicted of participation in a gang if they meet specific criteria. Gang participation involves:
- Knowing That Gang Members Engaged in Criminal Gang Activity
- Actively Taking Part in the Gang Anyway
- Willingly Promoting, Furthering, or Assisting in Gang Member Felony Criminal Conduct
Individuals may willingly promote, assist, or further felony criminal conduct if they:
- Aid and Abet Others Who Commit a Felony
- Commit a Felony Directly
The court can prosecute participation in a gang as a misdemeanor or a felony in California. A conviction can lead to maximum:
- Fines of $10,000
- Prison Time of 3 Years
PC 186.22(b): Gang Sentencing Enhancement
PC 186.22(b) charges come into play if someone who is found guilty of participating in a gang is convicted of a crime carried out to:
- Assist or Promote the Behavior of Other Gang Members
- Offer Benefits to the Gang
Individuals who face the gang sentencing enhancement can face an additional mandatory prison sentence. Note that this sentence is carried out consecutively to any penalties handed down for the initial criminal act.
Penalties Associated with the Gang Sentencing Enhancement
The gang sentencing enhancements used in PC 186.22(b) are associated with California’s Street Terrorism Enforcement and Prevention Act (STEP). This act was designed to harshly punish any activity carried out by street gangs.
The court system can actually use a number of different penalty enhancements, depending on the underlying criminal charge. The majority of felonies can add up to 4 years of additional prison time to be served in addition and consecutive to the initial sentence.
However, further additional time behind bars may be added for:
- Serious Felonies
- Violent Felonies
There are also some specific felonies – including carjacking and home invasion robbery – that could lead to life in prison in California.
Misdemeanor Charges and PC 186.22(b)
So far, we’ve discussed enhancements for felony charges associated with gang behavior in California. However, PC 186.22 can also increase the penalties for misdemeanor charges. PC 186.22(d) allows prosecutors to treat misdemeanors as felonies if an individual committed the misdemeanor to:
- Benefit a Criminal Street Gang
- Assist or Promote Gang Members as They Engaged in Criminal Conduct
Shifting a misdemeanor charge to a felony charge can lead to up to 3 years in state prison for a conviction.
Legal Defenses and PC 186.22 Charges
Gang enhancement charges can end up having a tremendous impact on your life. You can get help handling these harsh penalties by contacting a Los Angeles criminal defense lawyer. A professional legal team may be able to show that:
You Were Falsely Accused of Gang Membership
Gang enhancement penalties should only apply if you participate in a criminal street gang. Individuals can be falsely accused of gang participation in some situations. Allow a criminal defense lawyer to dig into the facts surrounding your case if you were not actually involved in a gang.
You Did Not Commit a Crime in the First Place
You should not face a gang sentencing enhancement if you did not commit a misdemeanor or a felony, to begin with. A professional criminal defense lawyer can build a defense to protect you from any underlying criminal charges you are facing in California.
Speak with a Professional About PC 186.22 Charges
You can end up facing years of additional time in prison if you are convicted under California Penal Code Section 186.22: Gang Enhancements. Get professional help dealing with sentencing enhancements by contacting the Simmrin Law Group now. You can reach our criminal defense lawyers by calling
(310) 896-2723, or filling out our online contact form.
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