If San Diego County police or prosecutors suspect that a crime was committed as part of a gang activity, they may add a gang enhancement to the charges. While this is not a charge in itself, it will drastically increase the consequences of any charges you are already facing. If you have been accused of any type of gang-related crime, it is critical you contact a top San Diego gang enhancement attorney as soon as possible.
California’s Gang Crime Enhancement
Under California’s gang crime laws, anyone found guilty of committing a gang-related misdemeanor will instead be sentenced for a felony. If the case was already felony, a conviction will mean having a strike added to your record under the state’s three strikes laws and an additional four years of prison time will be added to your sentence. In a case involving very serious crimes like murder or a drive-by shooting, you could even have up to ten years added to your sentence. Because you will always be convicted of a felony if a gang enhancement is successfully added to the charges, you will also lose your right to own or possess a firearm.
Even if you are granted probation in your case, a common punishment for lower-level drug crimes, your probation will be subject to gang conditions, which means you cannot associate with gang members or wear gang-affiliated clothing (which may include gear from certain sports teams or even particular colors). In some cases, you may even be restricted from entering certain areas of the city. Your San Diego gang enhancement defense lawyer can help protect your freedoms as much as possible while negotiating for your probation terms.
It is worth mentioning that because this is only an enhancement, you could be found to be guilty of the original crime without being associated with a gang and you will not face the enhanced sentence, or you can be found to be in a gang but innocent of the crime, which will leave you free from any penalties.
The Gang Member Database
Law enforcement officials maintain a gang registry that is shared with police and sheriff’s departments from across the state of California. The San Diego police department and other law enforcement agencies throughout the state also operate their own regional registries. If you are convicted of a gang crime, you will be added to a gang member registry that may be accessed by any police officer at any time in the future. But you can also be added to a registry without being convicted of a crime if police believe you are part of a street gang based on information such as known associates, tattoos, self admission, etc.
Police officers will see this registry any time they look you up in their database -even for a traffic citation. This also gives them a legal reason to stop you on the street or in your vehicle. Surprisingly, some employers and landlords even check the gang member registry before hiring someone or renting them a new home, which means even if you never face criminal accusations, being on a gang database can still be a problem.
These registries don’t just document your name and photo, but also your aliases, tattoos, vehicles, activities and more. Many people already in these registries don’t even know it though police are now legally required to notify people they add to a gang registry. If you aren’t sure, but believe you may be on a registry, you or your criminal defense attorney can ask a local law enforcement agency if you have been registered as a gang member. Those who feel they were wrongly added to a registry an fight their inclusion first with a local law enforcement agency and then through the court if the agency refuses to remove them from the registry. If you have been erroneously documented to a gang registry, the San Diego County District Attorney is very open to motions to remove you from the registry.
Gang Membership Isn’t Necessary
You do not even need to be part of a gang or already listed on a gang registry to be convicted of a gang crime. If you committed a crime in order to help a gang or to join a gang, you may receive a gang crime enhancement to your charges. A San Diego criminal attorney may be able to fight the accusations that you acted on behalf of a gang while also helping you fight the charges themselves.
When you have been accused of a gang crime, do not tell anything to the police or prosecutors unless you have a criminal defense lawyer present. Remember that anything you say can and will be used against you.
As soon as you have been arrested for a gang-related crime in San Diego, call (760) 643-4050 or (858) 486-3024 to schedule a free consultation with at the criminal defense law firm of Peter M. Liss. to schedule a free initial consultation with San Diego gang crimes lawyer Peter M. Liss.
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