A Gang Enhancement is an additional prison sentence that is added to the underlying felony committed for the benefit of, at the discretion of, or in association with any criminal street gang, provided the person had the specific intent to promote, further, or assist in any criminal conduct by gang members. The Gang Sentencing Enhancement Law is contained in California Penal Code section 186.22(b). The Gang Enhancement (additional prison time) is not triggered until there is a conviction on the underlying felony. The punishment for the gang enhancement is often as severe, or more severe, than the punishment on the underlying felony.
If a defendant is convicted of the underlying felony and the underlying felony is a "serious felony" (but not a "violent felony," see below) there is an additional five years in state prison that may be imposed on top of the sentence for the underlying offense. A "serious felony" is a felony listed in California Penal Code section 1192.7(c) or 1192.8. A serious felony may also be a violent felony. Examples of serious felonies include:
- Negligent discharge of a firearm – Penal Code section 246.3
- Making criminal threats – Penal Code section 422
- Attempted Murder
- Lewd or lascivious act on a child under 14
- Residential burglary.
If the underlying felony is a "violent felony" there is an additional 10 years that may be imposed on top of the underlying offense. A "violent felony" is a felony listed in California Penal Code section 667.5(c). Examples of a "violent felony" include:
- Continuous Sexual Abuse
California has additional Gang Enhancements such as:
- Home Invasion Robbery and Carjacking: These carry a potential life sentence;
- Firearms: There is an additional sentence of one, two, or three years for gang members who carry a firearm while committing any street gang crime;
Homicide: There is an additional sentence of death or life without the possibility of parole for 1st degree murder if the defendant was an active gang member and the murder was carried to promote the gang.
In Los Angeles, people are sometimes falsely accused of being gang members because of their ethnic or racial background, where they live, or the friends they associate with. These false allegations can be successfully contested. If you or someone you know is accused of a gang crime, or being a gang member, consult with an experienced gang defense attorney to learn about your rights, defenses, and any and all legal options.