Law Office of David P. Shapiro - San Diego Criminal Defense Attorney




2550 Fifth Ave Suite 1050, San Diego, CA 92103

San Diego Gang Charges Lawyer

If you or a loved one has been arrested and accused of gang-related criminal activity, the consequences of a conviction could be dire. Prosecutors take these cases extremely seriously, pursuing lengthy sentences and enhanced penalties. Don’t let gang allegations derail your life – protect your rights and future by securing skilled legal representation immediately.

At the Law Office of David P. Shapiro, our criminal defense attorneys advocate for those facing gang charges in San Diego. From challenging illegally obtained evidence to raising affirmative defenses, we leave no stone unturned in building a legal strategy aimed at the best possible resolution. With your freedom on the line, you need a proven gang crimes lawyer fighting for you every step of the way.

Contact us today to discuss your options.

What Constitutes Criminal Street Gang Activity? | Penal Code § 186.22

California Penal Code Section 186.22 defines a criminal street gang as an ongoing organization or group of three or more people that share a common name or identifying symbol and engage in a pattern of criminal gang activity.

This statute covers two main areas: substantive gang charges and sentencing enhancements for gang-related crimes. On the substantive side, Penal Code Section 186.22(a) makes it a crime to actively participate in a criminal street gang and assist in its felonious conduct. However, this requires far more than simply associating with alleged gang members. Prosecutors must prove:

  1. Your active involvement and participation in the gang;
  2. Your knowledge of the gang’s pattern of criminal behavior; and
  3. That you intentionally furthered or promoted the gang’s illegal activities.

Merely being in the same neighborhood or social circle as gang affiliates is insufficient. There must be evidence you knowingly participated in and promoted the gang’s crimes. This prevents the law from being unconstitutionally overbroad.

The other major component of Penal Code Section 186.22 is “gang enhancements.” These enhancements allow for drastically increased sentences if you committed a felony to benefit a gang. But again, the intent element is crucial; prosecutors must show the underlying crime was purposefully committed to aid the gang, not merely that you have potential gang ties.

Consequences of a Gang-Related Conviction

The penalties for violations of California’s criminal street gang laws under Penal Code Section 186.22 are extremely harsh, with potential life sentences in some cases.

For the substantive gang participation charge under PC § 186.22(a):

  • It is a “wobbler” offense that can be filed as either a misdemeanor or felony
  • Misdemeanor convictions can result in up to 1 year in county jail and/or a $1,000 fine
  • Felony convictions are punishable by up to 3 years in state prison and/or a $10,000 fine

The real danger often lies in the sentencing enhancements under PC § 186.22(b) for gang-related felonies, including:

  • Up to 4 additional years in prison for a generic felony committed for the gang’s benefit
  • An additional 5 years in prison for a serious felony
  • An additional 10 years in prison for a violent felony

If the underlying charges are specific felonies like home invasion, carjacking, extortion, or dissuading a witness, then the gang enhancement can carry up to lifetime imprisonment.

These enhancements allow what may have been a relatively minor felony to become a potential life sentence simply due to perceived gang involvement or motivation. Prosecutors also frequently stack other enhancements like those for firearms, great bodily injury, or hate crimes.

With so much at stake, having strong legal representation from an experienced gang crimes defense lawyer is imperative. An attorney can scrutinize the evidence, challenge gang allegations, and pursue the best possible resolution through dismissals, charge reductions, or mitigated sentencing.

Defending Against Gang-Related Charges in San Diego

The odds are stacked against you when facing gang charges. But remember, you have constitutional rights and a criminal defense law firm nearby that can help you assert them. You’re innocent until the state proves you guilty, and the prosecution bears the burden of proving your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

At the Law Office of David P. Shapiro, we make sure the courts hear your voice at every stage of the criminal justice process.

We make this happen by:

  • Thoroughly investigating your case and gathering evidence to support your defense.
  • Challenging any violations of your constitutional rights, such as illegal searches or coerced confessions.
  • Providing you with honest, straightforward advice and keeping you informed about the progress of your case.
  • Fighting tirelessly to achieve the best possible outcome, whether taking your case to trial or negotiating a favorable plea deal.

If you’re facing gang charges in San Diego, seek legal help today. The sooner you involve our attorneys, the better. We offer confidential consultations to discuss your case and explore your legal options. You don’t have to take on the criminal justice system alone or leave your fate in the hands of an overworked public defender. Contact us today to discuss your options.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I be charged with a crime for just being a part of a gang?

Yes, under California Penal Code Section 186.22(a), actively participating in a criminal street gang is a crime in and of itself. Even if you don’t personally commit any other illegal acts, you can face felony charges simply for intentionally promoting or assisting in the gang’s felonious conduct. This is why casual associations alone are typically not enough for a conviction – prosecutors must prove active, knowing involvement.

What is the criteria for a gang in California?

To meet the legal definition of a “criminal street gang” under Penal Code Section 186.22, the group must consist of three or more people with a common name/symbol, when one of their primary activities involves committing criminal offenses, and they engage in a pattern of criminal gang activity. Simply being a club, social group, or loose affiliation of individuals is not enough without evidence of their organized criminality.

How long do you go to jail for gang violence?

The penalties for gang-related violent crimes in California depend on the underlying felony offense but are substantially enhanced under Penal Code Section 186.22(b). While the felony itself may carry a sentence of months or years, the gang enhancement can add anywhere from 4 years to life in prison on top of that base sentence.

If you or someone you love is facing criminal charges in California, swift action is imperative. The penalties can be life altering and long lasting. Give us a call today to set up a case evaluation with one of our attorneys and learn how to best protect your freedom and future. Too often, we see clients who “wait and see,” unsure of the legal landscape ahead, only for charges to escalate. They then find themselves backpedaling into a bad defense and an even worse lawyer. Don’t let that happen to you. Protect your freedom. Protect your future. Know your rights.

The contents of this article are meant for informational and marketing purposes only and do not constitute legal advice. Viewing and/or use of the blog does not form an attorney-client relationship. No statements in this post are a guarantee, warranty, or prediction of a particular result in your case.