A sentence enhancement occurs when an individual who is charged with a crime faces a harsher sentence because he or she has previously offended. When this happens, the judge presiding over the case might see fit to impose harsher sentences because the alleged perpetrator is no longer a first-time offender.
Gang enhancements are a specific type of sentence enhancement, and are used when an individual committed either a felony or misdemeanor crime on behalf of or to benefit a street gang. Gang sentencing enhancements in San Diego vary depending on the type of crime committed and the circumstances surrounding the crime itself.
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In order to best protect your freedom and future, your priority should be to secure a San Diego Criminal Defense attorney with a lauded record of success, who understands the unique nature of gang enhancements, including the intricacies involved in these types of charges.
What is a Sentence Enhancement in San Diego?
Under California law, if you have a previous criminal record and you re-offend, you may face a more serious penalty than if you were first-time offender. It is called an “enhancement” because the original sentence is “enhanced” to a harsher sentence if you have previously been convicted of a crime.
On the federal level, there exists the United States Sentencing Guidelines, which a judge will consult when considering the type of crime, you are alleged to have committed, the circumstances surrounding the crime—for instance, assault versus assault with a deadly weapon—and whether or not you have a prior criminal record. On the state level, however, there are additional or alternate sentencing guidelines that affect the punishment you may receive under the law.
Gang Enhancements in San Diego
Another important consideration a judge will take into account when determining your sentence is whether or not you committed the crime on behalf of, in assistance to, or to benefit a criminal street gang in San Diego. If you are a convicted of a crime and are also proven to be an active member of or contributor to a San Diego criminal street gang, you may face a harsher, “enhanced” sentence.
What is a “criminal street gang” in San Diego?
According to the state of California, a criminal street gang is an active and ongoing organization or group of three or more people; said group has a collective identifying name and/or symbol; group members—together or individually—engage in a continued pattern of illegal, criminal activity.
What factors determine sentence enhancement in gang crimes in San Diego?
Beyond the sentencing guidelines that judges invoke at the state and federal level, there are a variety of factors that are also considered when a sentence is facing enhancement. They include:
- Criminal Street Gang Activity or Participation
Committing a misdemeanor of a felony as part of larger gang activity–whether theft, burglary, rape, arson, or otherwise—or in compliance with gang activity, might cause a sentence to be enhanced. Even if you yourself are not a member of a gang in San Diego, but you are convicted of a crime that benefitted or complied withcriminal street gang activity—i.e. if you provided your vehicle to a gang member who used it in committing a crime—you may also face a PC 186.22(a) gang enhancement.
How are gang enhancements proven in San Diego?
To prove that the accused should be charged with a gang enhancement, the prosecutor assigned to the case must show the following points, under Penal Code Section 186.22(a):
- The accused was an active participant in a criminal street gang
- The accused was aware of the gang’s history or pattern of illegal gang activity
- The accused intentionally attempted to commit, committed, assisted, promoted, aided, and/or abetted the gang’s felonious criminal activity
Under the PC 186.22(b) sentencing statute, a person who commits a felony for the benefit of, at the direction of, or in association with any criminal street gang, with the specific intent to promote, further or assist in criminal conduct by gang members will receive a mandatory prison sentence which will be consecutive to the penalty he receives for the underlying felony offense.
If you are facing criminal charges that might come with a gang enhanced sentence, the best way to lessen your punishment is to secure representation by an experienced San Diego criminal defense attorney who knows the law and can advocate on your behalf. During her tenure as a deputy district attorney, Anna R. Yum was assigned to the criminal street gang unit. She has ample and successful experience in both prosecuting and defending against criminal street gang charges. This invaluable experience gives Ms. Yum a distinct advantage in not only spotting the legal issues, but also, the prosecution’s legal weaknesses in a criminal street gang case.
Each gang sentence enhancement case is different. With each charge comes the potential of a harsher sentence under the law. To discuss the details of your case in a confidential setting, with no-strings-attached, contact the Law Offices of Anna R. Yum today for your free consultation.