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Orange County Gang Defense Lawyer

California Penal Code 186.22 – Gang-Related Charges

The state of California has strict laws against gang-related activity, including additional penalties for anyone convicted of a crime while part of a gang or that was committed in order to benefit a gang, even if the defendant was not a gang member. These enhancements can include a significant increase in jail time for felony charges, adding between five to 15 years to a sentencing, depending on the crime.

Being charged with a gang-related enhancement can severely impact your life and add on years to your sentence if you do not have skilled legal counsel at your side. The Law Office of Michael L. Guisti has successfully defended multiple gang-related cases and will thoroughly investigate your case to negotiate a lighter sentence, or have charges dismissed altogether. Do not hesitate to contact us at (714) 530-9690 to ensure your right to a fair trial is protected.

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Laws Regarding Gang-Related Crimes

California Penal Code (PC) 186.22, otherwise known as the Street Terrorism Enforcement and Prevention (STEP) Act, outlines the laws and penalties that govern gang-related crimes. To be charged with a gang-related enhancement, a defendant must be a willing participate in a criminal street gang, be aware of any criminal activity committed by the gang, and be charged with a crime in relation to gang activity or in order to benefit the gang.

In California, you may face the following gang-related charges:

  • PC 186.22(a) – Participation in a Criminal Street Gang
  • PC 186.22(b)(1)(A) – Standard Felony Charges
  • PC 186.22(b)(1)(B) – Serious Felony Charges
  • PC 186.22(b)(1)(C) – Violent Felony Charges
  • PC 186.22(b)(4)(B) – Home-Invasion Robbery, Carjacking, Shooting into a Home, or Shoot from a Car Charges
  • PC 186.22(b)(4)(C) – Extortion, Bribery, or Threatening Witnesses Charges
  • PC 186.22(d) – Enhancement for Misdemeanor Charges

The differences between serious and violent charges in California are complicated, as there are many crimes that overlap between the two of them, including rape, murder, robbery, and assault with a deadly weapon. The court may determine if a charge is serious or violent based on the circumstances of the crime, a defendant’s criminal history, and if there are any additional charges being considered. Contacting a knowledgeable and experienced Orange County criminal defense attorney can help you establish which charge the court may pursue and what penalties may apply to your case.

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Gang-Related Enhancement Penalties

The majority of gang-related charges come with an enhancement for another crime and increase the amount of time in jail by:

  • PC 186.22(a) – One year in a county jail or 16 months, two, or three years in a state prison
  • PC 186.22(b)(1)(A) – Two, three, or four years in addition to felony charges
  • PC 186.22(b)(1)(B) – Five years in addition to serious felony charges
  • PC 186.22(b)(1)(C) – 10 years in addition to violent felony charges
  • PC 186.22(b)(4)(B) – 15 years in addition to related felony charges
  • PC 186.22(b)(4)(C) – Seven years in addition to felony charges
  • PC 186.22(d) – The courts may convert a misdemeanor charge to a felony charge

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Defending Against Charges

Gang-enhancements can add serious jail time to your sentence and can be difficult to defend against if you do not have knowledgeable legal counsel handling your case. The Law Office of Michael L. Guisti can pursue multiple defenses on your behalf, including:

  • Not a Gang Member: Police may attempt to charge you with a gang-related crime even if you are a not a member or have left a gang. For the STEP Act to apply to your case, the prosecution must prove that you are a member and have knowledge of criminal activity. Our attorney can utilize witness testimony to demonstrate that you are either not a gang member or have left a gang, proving that the STEP Act and related enhancement does not apply to your case.
  • Defend Against Felony Charges: The enhancement can only be pursued if the prosecutor proves beyond a reasonable doubt that you committed a felony. If your attorney can successfully defend against the felony charges, then the gang enhancement would not apply at all.
  • For Your Own Benefit: The STEP ACT only applies to charges that benefit the gang. If you are charged with theft or assault that is not related to gang-activity, then the enhancements can be dismissed.
  • Discredit “Expert” Testimony: Prosecutors may utilize testimony from individuals who claim to have in-depth knowledge about gangs, either based on sociology, psychology, or other related fields. These “experts” may include the police officers involved with the arrest; however a skilled criminal defense attorney can work to test their knowledge and disprove their conclusions before a jury. In doing so, the prosecution will have difficulty building a credible case based on gang-activity.

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Experienced Legal Representation for Alleged Gang Members

If you are charged with a gang-related felony in Irvine, do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Michael L. Guisti. Our leader criminal defense attorney Michael Guisti has fought on behalf of multiple alleged or former gang members in and around Orange County to reduce their sentencing or fully dismiss all charges. When you bring your case us, we will thoroughly review all angles and argue for the best possible outcome on your behalf. Call us at (714) 530-9690 or toll-free at (888) 478-8999 to ensure your rights are protected.

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Whether you're facing a felony or a misdemeanor, don't risk a conviction. Act quickly to redeem your reputation and protect your record by consulting with our Orange County criminal defense lawyer. Call today to schedule your free consultation.

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