With the increase of organized street gangs, gang crimes have also been on the rise in Pasadena. If you get charged with a crime that is gang-related, your sentence will be harsher than an ordinary person committing the same offense. Gang crimes are ordinary crimes ranging from rape, murder, robbery, drug trafficking, extortion, among many others. However, when you get accused of committing these offenses for the benefit of a street gang, they are no longer ordinary.
With the severe punishment you are likely to receive, you need an experienced attorney in criminal defense to fight for you. If you are in Pasadena, get in touch with The Law Offices of Fountain & Hattersley, and we will passionately defend you against the criminal charges.
Overview of Gang Crime Laws
As earlier stated, gang crimes are ordinary crimes only committed for the benefit of an organized criminal group or gang. According to PEN 186.22, a gang is described as:
- An organized and active group with at least three members
- It has a unique name to it, a mark or a symbol identifying it
- With one of its primary objectives as that of committing crimes
- And the members of the gang collectively or individually carry out criminal activities
The law in California is stringent on gang-related crimes. If you even aid in the crimes or are associated with them, you will get criminally prosecuted, and your sentence is enhanced. It is also a criminal offense to be a member of a gang group. This is according to PEN 186.22(a) where you will be guilty if you:
- Knowingly know the members of the group engage in criminal activities and
- Intentionally promote, increase or help with their illegal activities
It is critical to know that in carrying out gang crimes, it is not mandatory to be an active member of the gang to be convicted of the offense. If you aid or commit the crime for the benefit of the outlawed group, you are guilty of a gang crime even when not a member.
The law has outlined many different crimes that can be carried out by a street gang. In this article, we will discuss the various gang crimes and their punishments.
Prevalent Gang Crimes in California
As earlier discussed, the increase of organized criminal groupings as street gangs is on the rise in California, and so are the crimes they commit. Some of the common offenses or gang crimes include:
If you carry out an act to hurt another person willingly, it is assault as found under PEN 240. The crime of assault becomes a gang crime when committed for the benefit of the gang. For instance, the gang leader may seek to avenge through assault for an offense committed against your band. Although this offense is typically a misdemeanor crime committed by an ordinary person, when it is associated with gang activities, it becomes aggravated assault. Most gang-related assaults become aggravated when:
- A deadly weapon is used to commit the offense according to PEN 245a1
- You use a firearm to commit the assault according to PEN 245a2
- You assault another person using means that can result in great bodily harm as found under PEN 245a4
- If you used caustic chemicals to assault the person, PEN 244 and
- If you assaulted a school employee with a weapon classified as deadly according to PEN 245.5
If you assaulted a law enforcement officer for the sake of a gang, the penalties are enhanced. Most groups assault peace officers in retaliation. This fact is seriously considered, and if you are found guilty, the sanctions can adversely affect your life.
However, with an experienced attorney, you can fight the allegations of gang crime against you and receive a favorable outcome. The prosecutor must determine various elements of the offense that your attorney will challenge before you get convicted. Some of the aspects if found accurate for the crime include:
- You carried out an act that naturally would result in the application of force directly to another person
- You willfully committed the deed for the benefit or under the direction of a gang group
- As you acted, you knew it would result in the use of force against the victim
Your lawyer will study the case against you and formulate defenses based on the circumstances of the offense.
The crime of theft in California is defined under PEN 211. This offense is when you feloniously take items or property from another person that does not belong to you, without their consent. The law further says that the crime gets successfully committed when you instill fear or use force to obtain the item. A standard robbery in California is prosecuted as a felony offense with a possible sentence of nine years in prison.
Robbery can also be a gang crime when carried out by a gang member or on behalf of a gang group for its benefit. If you get charged for robbery as gang crime, the prosecutor must establish various elements to get you convicted. These include:
- You are a member of an illegal gang group
- You took items or property not belonging to you while in possession of another
- You obtained the said property against the will of the person
- In getting it, you intimidated the person by use of force, threats or fear
- When you took the item, you intended to deprive the owner of the property and benefit the gang group you are affiliated to
The crime of robbery in California is categorized as either a first or second degree. The penalties also depend on what level you get charged with. And with relation to gang activities, the sentence is enhanced. When the offense gets committed with the help of a deadly weapon or firearm, the penalties get further increased.
Drug trafficking is another crime that is often associated or committed by members of a street gang, making it a gang crime. The state of California prohibits the trafficking of narcotics, whether personally or as a gang crime. According to HS 11379, it is a criminal offense to sell, transport, import, export, give or distribute controlled substances or narcotics.
The laws that prohibit drug trafficking are severe, and the penalties largely depend on the circumstances of the offense. The penalties for drug trafficking in California include:
- If you committed the crime of trafficking drugs in a drug treatment facility or within a thousand feet of it or a shelter for the homeless, you earn an extra year to your standard jail sentence. However, if you were committing the offense for a gang, your sentence is further enhanced.
- If you are charged and convicted of transporting and selling drugs in more than two counties in California, your prison sentence is nine years. If you are a gang member committing the offense to profit the unlawful group, the judge will further increase your sentence.
- If you had methamphetamine in a substantial amount or at least one kilogram, you would be charged with an extra three to fifteen years, served consecutively.
When convicted of the offense, but you were doing it for the gang’s benefit, your sentence is enhanced.
Murder or Manslaughter
Typically, street gangs are territorial, meaning they want to rule a particular region as their operation point. Sometimes when a member of one street gang does something that is interpreted as disrespecting a territory, gang war may lead to murder or manslaughter. Gang members are also known to eliminate competition in their business by getting rid of the competitor. This gets done through murder or another form of violence.
Murder is prevalent with street gangs. The members can kill each other, members of a rival group, and community members that don’t comply with their rules. Murder as a gang crime gets committed against peace officers or law enforcement officers seen to be an obstacle in the gang business. The punishment for murder or manslaughter is severe in California and more severe when the offense got committed as a gang crime.
Shooting an Inhabited Car or House
One of the well-known gang crimes is shooting at a house occupied by people or a car. In doing this, the gang wants to send a message of dominance, kill one or all the occupants or injure them. Sometimes when one street gang disagrees with another, they may drive to where the other group operates. Knowing the house or car is occupied by the rival members, they shoot at it without caring about who else is caught in the crossfire.
This type of street justice is unacceptable, yet it happens. When you get accused of this type of gang crime, the penalties to a standard offense are harsh, but an enhancement sentence is issued if it was for the gang.
This is also another common type of street gang crime. Sometimes a gang group may feel disrespected by a business person that refuses to comply with them. Or they may feel a particular person or people are their enemies, and the only way is to eliminate the problem by intimidating or killing them. In doing this, they may drive by the business premises and decide to shoot at it as they pass with the hope that the message gets sent, and they will not be found out.
Many murders and serious injuries have been as a result of street gang violence. If identified as one of the perpetrators, you will face felony charges with an enhanced sentence for gang crime.
Arson is one of the severest punished property crimes in California. Street gangs are also known to commit arson against persons they see as enemies. Arson, as an offense, is defined as malicious and willful burning of property, either a house, land, forest or a car. The minimum sentence for an arsonist defendant is three years in state prison, with a maximum of nine years.
If you are accused of arson to benefit a gang, your punishment is likely to be the maximum sentence. Having a lawyer that understands property crime on your side can help you fight against the harsh sentence to receive a more lenient one.
Intimidating a Witness or a Victim
Intimidation is a tactic that gang members use to get their way. This is an offense in California that gets severely prosecuted. Because of the many crimes gang members face, they sometimes threaten to injure or kill a state witness or their family if they testify against them. In this case, they aim to avoid a conviction because they know that the charges against them will get discharged without a particular witness.
Intimidation of a public officer or any member of the society is also a crime in California. A street gang wanting to get away with what they should not or obtain unwarranted favors will intimidate others. Intimidation is often accompanied by threats to injure or kill the victim or their loved ones and sometimes uses blackmail to intimidate.
PEN 487 is the law that prohibits taking property belonging to another person without their consent, and its value is $950 or over. When a gang specializes in stealing from stores property worth over $950, it is grand theft and gang crime. Grand theft, according to the law, can be perpetrated in different ways.
A gang can be charged with grand theft if it steals firearms, vehicles, or other valuable items such as jewelry. This crime is typically prosecuted as a wobbler. The prosecutor looks at the facts of the case and your criminal background to decide. Usually, a misdemeanor charge on this offense carries a maximum one-year county jail sentence. On the other hand, a felony conviction earns you a longer county jail sentence of sixteen or twenty-four or thirty-six months.
If in committing this gang crime you used a firearm, the offense gets prosecuted as a felony. Most gang members commit this offense, using guns to intimidate their victims. When you get convicted of using a firearm to commit grand theft, your sentence will include state imprisonment for sixteen or twenty-four or thirty-six months. However, as gang crime, the offense on conviction often receives increased penalties.
A kidnapping offense can also be a gang crime when committed by a street gang for their benefit. Kidnapping is a serious felony offense that would earn you a minimum of eight years of state imprisonment to life when aggravating circumstances are present. The law, according to PEN 207, describes kidnapping as when you move a person from their current location for a significant distance. This is usually done without the consent of the person and by the use of fear and force.
A gang group can kidnap a person and demand ransom for their release. While the victim gets kidnapped, they may suffer significant injuries to their bodies or get killed if the payment isn’t made. Among others, these serve as aggravating factors that will enhance your sentence, let alone commit the offense for a street gang.
Rape is a serious sex crime in California prosecuted as a felony with a conviction earning you a maximum of eight years of state imprisonment. The law that describes rape is PEN 261. The statute defines this offense as when you force another person or use deception and fear to have non-consensual sex with them.
The law further lists acts that are considered rape, which can also be committed by a gang, to make this a gang crime. These include:
- When you have non-consensual sex with a person incapable of permitting due to a mental illness
- You use force, threats or violence to have sex with the victim
- You prey on an intoxicated person incapable of consenting because of their situation or
- You have sex with a person that is unconscious and does not know what you are doing
A street gang committing other offenses can decide to rape victims as a show of power or for its sake. When you get charged with this offense, you may also get your sentence enhanced if you injured your victim significantly. The age of the victim also plays a significant role in the sentence you receive. Additionally, you will have to register as a sex offender for the rest of your life. When the offense gets committed as gang crime, the prosecutor and the court consider this, which would enhance your sentence.
Torture, according to PEN 206, is a crime in California. This crime involves inflicting significant bodily injury to the victim to cause them extreme pain. This offense is differentiated from other similar crimes by its element of motive. The law will find you guilty of torture if it is for revenge, extortion, persuasion, or sadistic purpose. When you torture a person without a motivator, you may not get convicted of torture.
Torture becomes a gang crime committed by a gang or for the gang’s benefit. In a typical torture case, the offense is a felony punished with a fine of $10,000 and possible life imprisonment.
Extortion or Blackmail
Extortion is another criminal offense, as outlined under PEN 518. The crime involves using force or threatening another person to give you their property or money. The crime can also be a gang crime when an organized gang blackmails a public official or another person into neglecting or performing an act they would otherwise not do. The victim of extortion feels compelled to obey the orders by the extortionist to avoid the consequences that may result.
Extortion is prosecuted as a felony and carries a lengthy sentence if convicted. The verdict gets often increased if the offense was aimed at enhancing gang activities or benefiting the gang.
Street gangs are often associated with the carjacking offense. This gang crime involves taking a vehicle belonging to another person forcefully through the infliction of fear. The law in California prohibiting carjacking is under PEN 215. According to this statute, the victim doesn’t have to be the owner, driver, or even a passenger. But, the use of fear and force to have control over the car is what constitutes the crime.
The offense in California is prosecuted and punished as a felony, earning you a maximum of nine years of state imprisonment. However, your sentence gets enhanced if:
- You caused bodily harm to the victim
- A gun was used to commit the crime
- You committed the crime to enhance gang activities, or
- You kidnapped a person as you committed the carjacking offense
Additionally, the offense of carjacking earns you a strike according to the three-strikes law, meaning you will not be eligible for parole until you have completed 85% of your sentence.
It is a criminal offense in California to enter another person’s car, trunk intending to steal it, property in it, or carry out any other felony. This offense is a gang crime as well when it gets committed for the benefit of a gang group. Auto burglary in California is found under general burglary crime, according to PEN 459.
The offense in California is often prosecuted under second-degree burglary, which is a wobbler. If you get convicted on misdemeanor charges, you earn yourself a year or less in jail. If the offense is prosecuted as a felony as it is when it is a gang crime, the penalties are harsher. A conviction will see you serve sixteen months or twenty-four or thirty-six in jail.
On the other hand, you can get charged with auto theft as a first-degree burglary. This happens if you forcefully enter a trailer coach or an RV inhabited by an individual to steal. This offense is prosecuted as a felony, and a conviction would earn you two or four or six years of state imprisonment. Further, your sentence is increased if the offense was for the sake of a gang group.
Find a Pasadena Criminal Attorney Near Me
When a crime is committed by a gang member or for the gang’s benefit, the law severely punishes it. This is in comparison to when committed by an ordinary person. A conviction for any of the above offenses can adversely affect your life, making it critical to defend yourself against the allegations. With the help of an experienced attorney from The Law Offices of Fountain & Hattersley, we can aggressively fight the charges to obtain a favorable outcome. Call us to discuss your case and for representation at 626-793-4111.