Criminal Street Gang

California law prohibits a person from participating in a criminal street gang. The elements of the offense requirement proof that:

  • the person actively participated in any criminal street gang ;
  • with knowledge that its members engage in, or have engaged in, a pattern of criminal gang activity; and
  • willfully promoted, furthered, or assisted in any felonious criminal conduct by members of that gang.

A person can be charged with an alternate felony-misdemeanor that is punishable by imprisonment in the county jail for up to one year or in the state prison for 16 months, two years, or three years.

Additionally, an association with a street gang might subject the defendant to enhanced penalties as explained below.

Attorney for Street Gang Crimes in Ventura, CA

If you are charged with a crime related any participation with a street gang in Ventura, CA, then contact an experienced criminal defense attorney at Jay Leiderman Law.

Although California law is not well settled in this area, the criminal defense attorney should always move to bifurcate any evidence related to being in a street gang from the trial on the underlying charge. It is hard to imagine any other evidence that would be more prejudicial then showing that the defendant is a member of or associated with a street gang in Ventura County, CA.

For this reason, the criminal defense attorney must move to bifurcate the evidence about the street gang from the jury’s determination of that person’s guilty for the underlying criminal charges.

Your attorney should fight this issue aggressively and be prepared to preserve the issue for appeal in case of an adverse ruling. Winning that motion also leads to much better pre-trial negotiations for a possible plea bargain to avoid a trial.

The best results come from aggressively fighting ever aspect of the charges. Good things happen when the attorney files motions to exclude prejudicial evidence, motions to suppress illegally obtained evidence, and motions to dismiss charges not supported by sufficient evidence.

Contact Jay Leiderman to discuss your case and problems with any evidence of associating with a street gang.

Call (805) 654-0200.

Enhancement for “Criminal Street Gangs”

If you are charged with a felony and a further finding is made that was involve a criminal street gang, then enhanced penalties might apply.

The elements of the enhancement require proof that;

  • the person convicted of a felony committed for the benefit of, at the direction of, or in association with any criminal street gang; and
  • with the specific intent to promote, further, or assist in any criminal conduct by gang members.

If the enhancement is proven, then upon conviction of that felony and in addition and consecutive to the punishment prescribed for the felony or attempted felony of which the person has been convicted, the enhanced penalties apply.

The additional penalty imposed for the street crime gang enhancement depending on the underlying offense. The enhanced penalties range from a low of an additional two years of incarceration to a high of an indeterminate life sentence with a parole opportunity only after at least 15 calendar years have been served.

If a person is granted probation or a suspended sentence of the crime or enhancement described above, the court must require the person to serve a mandatory minimum of 180 days in county jail.

A court, in its discretion, may exclude evidence if its probative value is substantially outweighed by the probability that its admission will either necessitate undue consumption of time or create substantial danger of undue prejudice, confusing the issues, or misleading the jury.

With respect to the bifurcation of a trial, as stated in

During the analysis of this enhancement the issue of a requirement for the bifurcation of the trial was explained by the Senate Committee on Public Safety when it noted:

Although bifurcation is provided as a statutory right in certain situations, the court also has broad authority to grant bifurcation when requested. (Pen. Code, § 1044.)

In cases where gang evidence is to be introduced, the California Supreme Court has acknowledged that such evidence could be highly prejudicial:

The predicate offenses offered to establish a “pattern of criminal gang activity” (§ 186.22, subd. (e)) need not be related to the crime, or even the defendant. For this reason, such evidence of the other offenses may be unduly prejudicial which would warrant bifurcation.

Additionally, even if the other gang evidence is related to the defendant, it may be so extraordinarily prejudicial that it threatens to sway the jury to conviction regardless of the defendant’s actual guilt. For this reason, the court must carefully weight the relevance of such evidence to guilt, if any, and bifurcate the trial to avoid this problem. See People v. Hernandez (2004) 33 Cal. 4th 1040, 1049.

In order to mitigate the prejudice to the defendant, the Courts have held that a trial court has the discretion, but is not necessarily required, to bifurcate the trial on the gang enhancement. By bifurcating the trial, the court then allows the prejudicial gang evidence to be introduced, but only after the defendant has been convicted of the underlying crime. Id.

Additional Resources

Ventura’s District Attorney on Special Gang Prosecutions – According to the website of the District Attorney’s Office in Ventura County, CA, even though Ventura County is consistently ranked as one of the safest counties in the western United States, many violent criminal street gangs pose an ongoing threat to local residents. For this reason, crimes committed by active members of criminal street gang in Ventura County are prosecuted by experienced prosecutors focused on achieving justice in those types of cases. The prosecutors assigned to gang cases are among the most experienced prosecutors within the District Attorney’s Office in Ventura County, CA. The types of crimes prosecuted by the Gang Unit at the District Attorney’s Office include murder, trafficking in controlled substances, assault with a deadly weapon, extortion, robbery, burglary and vandalism. Although the intended target of the violent crime might be another gang member, the prosecutors believe that the crime also have the potential to cause injury to innocent bystanders and the community as a whole.