Sacramento Defense Lawyer for Gang Enhancement Charges
California is historically known as a hotbed for gang crime. In the 1980s, street gang violence became so pervasive that the state legislature enacted the Street Terrorism Enforcement and Prevention (STEP) Act in an effort to eradicate criminal activity by street gangs. The law remains in effect and is used by prosecutors to impose longer and stricter sentences for gang-related crimes.
Over the last few years, Sacramento saw an uptick in gang violence. In fact, this prompted local law enforcement agencies and federal authorities to ramp up their efforts in targeting and punishing gang members to the fullest extent of the law.
You face harsh penalties if you are accused of gang affiliation or committing a gang-related crime in Sacramento, CA. For example, you face heavy fines, lengthy probation, registration as a gang member in the Calgang database, and potential “gang enhancements” that can add years to a prison sentence.
To preserve your freedom and reputation, seek immediate representation from a criminal defense attorney. Additionally, the attorney should have expertise in defending gang-related crimes and gang enhancements.
Jennifer Mouzis is a former prosecutor ready to fight on your behalf. She is well-respected in the Sacramento legal community and has successfully represented many individuals accused of committing gang-related crimes. Therefore, you can count on Ms. Mouzis to aggressively protect your rights and mount a vigorous defense aimed at reducing or dismissing the charges.
For a free and confidential consultation about your gang crimes case, call 916-822-8702 today.
Defining Criminal Street Gang
A criminal street gang is defined as any organization, association, or group of three or more persons meeting the following criteria:
- one of their primary activities is the commission of criminal acts
- they share a common name (“Bloods” or “Crips”) or identifiable sign or symbol (tattoo)
- members individually or collectively engage in or have engaged in a pattern of criminal gang activity (robbery, drug offenses, drive-by-shootings, vandalism, assault with a deadly weapon, murder, and more)
Understanding the Street Terrorism Enforcement and Prevention Act (STEP)
The District Attorney’s Office of Sacramento County will bring gang charges and enhancements under the STEP Act, specifically California Penal Code 186.22, section a and b.
Penal Code 186.22(a.): “Unlawful Gang Participation”
According to Penal Code 186.22(a) it’s a crime to knowingly participate in a street gang or assist in any felony criminal conduct with members of a gang. In order for an unlawful gang participation conviction, the prosecutor must prove, you:
- actively participated in a street gang
- had knowledge of the gang’s involvement in criminal activity
- willfully assisted, promoted, or furthered felony criminal conduct by gang members
You are considered an “active participant” in a gang even if you are not a gang leader or didn’t spend a substantial amount of time with the gang.
Unlawful gang participation is a “wobbler” crime. Therefore, this means it can be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony. If charged as a misdemeanor, the penalty is up to one year in county jail. On the other hand, a felony is punishable by a prison sentence between 16 months and 3 years depending on the facts of the case.
Penal Code 186.22(b.): Gang Enhancements
According to Penal Code 186.22(b) anyone who commits a felony for the benefit of, at the direction of, or in association with a gang, and with the specific intent to promote, assist, or further criminal conduct by gang members will be subject to “gang enhancements.” Gang enhancements can drastically increase the penalties to an underlying felony conviction.
The length of a sentence enhancement varies, depending on the type of felony.
- Basic felony: additional term of 2, 3 or 4 years consecutive to the felony.
- Serious felony: additional term of 5 years (drug crimes, kidnapping, making criminal threats)
- Violent felony: additional term of 10 years (any felony that inflicts great bodily injury, murder, rape, robbery)
- 10-20-Life Gun Rule: using a gun in the commission of a felony is an additional 10 years, firing a gun is an additional 20 years, and firing a gun and causing great bodily injury or death is an additional 25 years to life in prison
- Additional 15 years if the felony is a home-invasion robbery, carjacking, shooting into an inhabited dwelling or shooting from a motor vehicle
- Potential life sentence if convicted of a murder that occurred during a drive-by shooting, carjacking, or home invasion.
Gang Enhancement Defenses
Sacramento prosecutors can be overzealous when it comes to prosecuting alleged gang activity. The definition of a “street gang” in the STEP Act is broadly interpreted and abused by the prosecution. You may be falsely accused of gang affiliation because of your ethnic or racial background, where you live, or the friends you associate with. Fortunately, these false allegations can be successfully contested.
At Mouzis Criminal Defense, we will conduct an independent investigation into the incident that led to your arrest and utilize the best investigators and experts to attack the evidence against you.
Depending on the facts of your case, there are many effective defense strategies we can employ to combat the prosecution. Some of which may include:
- Challenging the underlying felony charge. If they cannot prove you committed a felony, there is no sentence to enhance.
- Disputing your alleged gang affiliation
- Proving that you did not act for the benefit of the gang
- Demonstrating you acted alone — i.e. committing a robbery because you personally needed money not because you were assisting a gang
- Proving discrimination due to ethnic or racial bias
Call Today For A Free Consultation
If you or a loved one are arrested or charged with gang crime activity, call the Law Offices of Jennifer Mouzis today at (916) 822-8702 for a Free consultation or case evaluation.
A conviction for a gang-related crime is subject to gang enhancement and can be devastating for your future. So, don’t wait to get help. In fact, having a former prosecutor in your corner gives you the best chance at beating the charges against you.