Gang Sentencing Enhancement - Penal Code 186.22 PC
I do a lot of case where the prosecutors charge a crime against somebody and then they tack on the back of it a gang enhancement. Obviously, this puts a defendant in a very bad position. A lot of these gang enhancements carry some serious prison time. The enhancement is described under California Penal Code Section 186.22.
The biggest one carries a ten-year prison sentence tacked on top of whatever the defendant gets in Los Angeles County for the underlying offense or offenses that they're charged with. So, these gang enhancements are very serious and basically, it's the legislature's response to gang violence where people are being killed and drugs are being sold on the streets.
The citizens of this country are being attacked by gang members and basically, the legislature has said we're going to put a stop to it. We will put these gang members away for many, many, many years.
Association With a Gang
My concern though is sometimes my clients get swept up in this whole gang argument and they're really not doing the things that the gang statute was meant to protect against.
So, they get swept up. They have some tangential connection to a gang in Los Angeles. Maybe they're an associate of the gang. Maybe they hang out with the gang. Maybe they just got into the gang and the next thing you know, they're tagged with a robbery or they're tagged with some sort of pimping and pandering charges as it relates to gang violence in Los Angeles County and knows they're looking at multiple years in prison.
They're eighteen, nineteen, twenty years old. It's just unbelievable and sad, and that's where a good criminal defense attorney in Los Angeles has to dig in and fight some of these charges where people are being charged with gang allegations and they really shouldn't be being charged with them.
Defenses And Mitigating Circumstances To Gang Allegations
Obviously, one easy defense is that you're not a gang member. Unfortunately, this doesn't end the query. The next question then becomes, are you an associate of the gang members? Do you hang out with them? Do you do the same things they do?
Because if you are, they can charge you just like the gang member and tack on all of these horrible repercussions, prison sentences and injunctions and all the other things that gang members get hit within Los Angeles County.
The next question becomes if you're not a gang member or you're an associate of a gang, are you involved with their activities? In other words, do you know what's going on? A lot of these gangs have a cache' of guns and cash and they have access to them anytime they want – to commit a robbery, to do some sort of gang violence against another gang whether it be a drive-by shooting.
I've seen them execute plots to murder other gang members, so if you have anything to do with that or your loved one has anything to do with that in Los Angeles County, you're looking at a severe prison sentence where they are basically taking gang members out.
California Governor Review of Gang Enhancement Law
Fortunately, Governor Jerry Brown has really looked into a lot of these sentences where they're just tacking on multiple enhancements and putting people away for many, many years and he has said, we're not going to go for this.
We're going to have parole hearings and really look into some of these cases because it's not fair because people are just languishing in prison as gang members and a lot of them were very young that did something stupid, have family and really don't belong in prison for twenty, thirty or forty years.
So, the bottom line is if you or a loved one is charged with one of these gang enhancements, you're going to have to get the best criminal defense attorney who is local to the courthouse where the case is pending, knows the prosecutors, knows the judges, knows what it takes to win a case and knows what it takes to mitigate a case, because if you can't mitigate a gang charge pursuant to §186.22, the client is looking at being sent to prison for many, many years without any relief.
Sure, you can get in the appeal process, but it takes a long time and it's very unlikely it's going to be successful unless you have thousands of dollars to spend on a great appellate lawyer who knows how to attack some of these gang allegations in Los Angeles County.
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So, I have you come in and we go over everything, then I go out and I meet the client and I'll go over everything with him and really see if they meet the requirements that are necessary to charge somebody with one of these gang allegations in Los Angeles and if they don't, we're going to fight it tooth and nail and get them out of the criminal justice system as soon as possible.