If you have been accused of a crime and the police and prosecutors determine that you are affiliated with a gang, they may then seek gang enhancements to be applied to the charges you are facing. When this happens, you may face much more serious charges and penalties. This is why it is so important for anyone in this situation to always work with a top Vista gang crime defense lawyer.
California’s Gang Crime Enhancement
Under California’s gang crime laws, anyone found guilty of committing a misdemeanor crime in conjunction with a gang will instead be sentenced for a felony. If the crime 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 cases 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 you are found to have participated in a gang crime, anyone convicted of a crime with a gang enhancement will also lose their right to own or possess a firearm.
Even if you are granted probation for your actions, your probation will be subject to gang conditions, which means you cannot associate with gang members or wear gang-affiliated clothing. In some cases, you may even be restricted from entering certain parts of the city. Your Vista gang crime defense attorney can help protect your freedoms as much as possible while negotiating for your probation terms.
Things to Know About Gang Crime Enhancements
Law enforcement officials maintain a gang registry that is shared with police and sheriff’s departments from across the state. 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 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 gang based on information such as known associates, tattoos, self admission, etc.
These registries don’t just document your name and photo, but also your aliases, tattoos, vehicles, activities and more. Many people 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 Vista gang crimes attorney can ask a local law enforcement agency if you are. 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 District Attorney is very open to motions to remove you from the registry.
It is important to know that even if you are not a member of a gang and are not on an existing registry, you can still be convicted of a gang crime if you committed a crime in order to help a gang or to join a gang. Additionally, as this is an enhancement, you could be found to be guilty of the 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.
When you have been accused of a gang crime, it is critical that you speak with a San Diego attorney representing juvenile offenders as soon as possible and refuse to speak to the police or prosecutors without your lawyer present. Remember, anything you say may be used against you later on. If you have been accused of any crime that could be tied in with gang activities, please call Peter M. Liss at (760) 643-4050 to schedule your free initial consultation at his office located directly across from the Vista county courthouse and jail.