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    Know and Protect Your Rights in a Criminal Defense Matter




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      Know and Protect Your Rights in a Criminal Defense Matter







          Martinez Gang Crime Lawyer

          While any criminal conviction can bring serious consequences, gang-related charges face especially harsh penalties. Under these “gang enhancement laws,” the penalties associated with a standard criminal offense are much higher if the state can establish the offense was related to gang activity. 

           If you are facing gang-related crime charges, an experienced Martinez gang crime lawyer could help. In some cases, your legal counsel could help you avoid a conviction or even push back on the allegation that you are involved in a gang at all. Let a Martinez criminal attorney help you fight back against these serious charges. 

          Getting a gang enhancement stricken can make a difference of several years in state prison depending on the offense. 

          Understand Gang Enhancement Laws

          According to California state law, a gang enhancement at sentencing can increase the criminal penalties associated with a conviction due to gang activity. This enhancement applies in a number of circumstances. Any felony that is committed at the direction or benefit of a criminal gang could qualify for a gang enhancement resulting in an increased penalty. For the enhancement to apply, the state must prove the defendant actively participated in a criminal street gang and promoted or assisted in felonious criminal conduct by members of the gang. In addition to the two basic elements of the gang enhancements the third element varies depending on the enhancement alleged:

            • Penal Code §186.22(b)(1)(A): Defendant was convicted of a felony that was committed with the specific intent of promoting, furthering, or assisting in criminal conduct by the gang members. This enhancement carries a maximum state prison term of 4 years.
            • Penal Code §186.22(b)(1)(B): Defendant was convicted of a serious felony that was committed with the specific intent of promoting, furthering, or assisting in criminal conduct by the gang members. This enhancement carries a state prison term of 5 years. 
          • Penal Code §186.22(b)(1)(C): Defendant was convicted of a violent felony that was committed with the specific intent of promoting, furthering, or assisting in criminal conduct by the gang members. This enhancement carries a state prison term of 10 years. 
          • Penal Code §186.22(b)(4)(B): Defendant was convicted of a home invasion robbery, carjacking, or shooting at an inhabited dwelling or a vehicle with the specific intent of promoting, furthering, or assisting in criminal conduct by the gang members. This enhancement carries a state prison term of 15 years-Life.
          • Penal Code §186.22(b)(4)(C): Defendant was convicted of extortion or threats to victims and witnesses with the specific intent of promoting, furthering, or assisting in criminal conduct by the gang members. This enhancement carries a state prison term of 7 years – Life.
          • Penal Code §186.22(b)(4)(D): Defendant was convicted of a felony punishable by life with the specific intent of promoting, furthering, or assisting in criminal conduct by the gang members. This enhancement carries a state prison term of 15 years-Life and the defendant cannot be paroled until a minimum of 15 calendar years are served. 

          Typically, gang enhancements are reserved for felony offenses. There are circumstances where the prosecutor might seek a conviction for gang activity or aiding a street gang as a misdemeanor if the activity was particularly innocuous. The punishment for misdemeanor gang activity or aiding a street gang is a maximum of one year in county jail. The enhancements for felony gang enhancements are starkly more serious resulting in lengthy prison terms.

          Active Participation in a Street Gang

          In addition to committing a crime at the direction or for the benefit of a street gang, the prosecution must also establish that the defendant actively participated in the organization. This is a subjective question, and there are different factors the court will use to determine participation. A Martinez gang crime attorney could dispute the allegation that the defendant actively participated in a street gang. 

          There is no straightforward definition of “active participation.” For example, a court might not find a defendant actively participated in a street gang as a member if they were essentially involved in name only. However, courts have also found active participation to have occurred by people who did not devote a substantial part of their time to the gang. 

          Not only must the state establish that the defendant was actively participating in a gang, but it must also show that there is a street gang in the first place. Not all groups of people involved in criminal activity meet the requirements of a street gang under the law. A street gang must have three or more members and have a common name or identifying symbol. These members must have engaged in a pattern of criminal activity, which must be one of the primary purposes of the gang. 

           Common Gang-Related Offenses

          There are multiple criminal offenses that could result in a gang enhancement. Some examples include:

          Fighting back against these charges is twofold. First, an attorney could fight for a “not guilty” verdict on all charges. Second, even in cases where guilt is likely, an experienced gang crimes lawyer could aim for a significant reduction in penalties by disputing the act was gang related.  Striking a gang enhancement can significantly reduce an individual’s maximum state prison exposure. A gang crime attorney in Martinez could work toward both of those goals. 

          Contact a Martinez Gang Crime Attorney Today

          If you are facing criminal charges and believe you could be facing gang enhancements as well, it is important that you obtain a seasoned criminal defense attorney right away. These aggravating factors could result in harsher penalties than you would otherwise face.

          Let a Martinez gang crime lawyer evaluate your case and advise you on a defense strategy. Call for an initial consultation today to learn about your options. 

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