What is California’s STEP Act?

California criminalizes unlawful gang activity through the Street Terrorism Enforcement and Prevention (STEP) Act. The Act primarily examines criminal gang conduct by focusing on patterns of criminal gang activity and the organized nature of street gangs in the state. More specifically, Penal Code §186.22 states that participation in a criminal street gang with knowledge that its members engage in criminal activity is punishable as either a misdemeanor or felony. Conviction for any crime or public offense committed in order to promote or assist in criminal conduct by gang members is punished by an additional term in county jail or state prison.

Additionally, a building or place gang members use for the purpose of committing specified offenses will be considered a nuisance, and damages may be recovered by prosecution, whether it is a private or public place. Participation in a gang could result in:

  • 1 year in county jail,
  • or a felony sentence of 16 months, 2 years, or 3 years in state prison, depending on the circumstances of the offense,
  • this is different, however, to the penalties of gang enhancements that can be added to felony offenses, which we discuss below.

At Adams Law, we seek to provide clients with three core elements of representation – creative strategy, courageous trial advocacy, and compassionate understanding. Attorney Eric Samuel Adams, Jr. is a Los Angeles native who understands the LA environment and legal system, especially as gang-related activity has become a large focus of law enforcement efforts in California. If you have been charged with gang-related violence, do not hesitate to consult Adams Law about your next steps to defend against unfair gang enhancements in your sentence.

Schedule a free consultation online or at (310) 975-7390 to discuss your case in more detail with Adams Law.

Gang-Related Shooting Enhanced Sentencing

In addition to the above gang crimes statute, California also imposes further laws addressing specific elements of gang violence. For one, any firearm, its ammunition, or deadly or dangerous weapon owned or possessed by a member of a criminal street gang to commit a criminal offense may be confiscated by any law enforcement agency or peace officer.

Drive-by shootings are also discussed in the law. In particular, the following incidents are punishable by the drive-by shooting statute:

  • Shooting at an occupied motor vehicle – a person convicted of a felony or an attempted felony discharges a firearm which causes great bodily injury or death.
  • Shooting from a motor vehicle – a person intentionally inflicts great bodily injury or death by discharging a firearm in the commission of a felony or attempted felony.

Upon conviction of the above gang-related drive-by shooting, the offender could face an additional and consecutive punishment of 5 years in state prison. It is also a misdemeanor for any individual to sell, give, or furnish to a minor any aerosol container of spray-paint that can be used to deface property (such as for the purposes of graffiti). Similarly, the anti-graffiti statute considers it a misdemeanor for any person younger than 18 years old to purchase an aerosol container of paint that can be used to deface property, according to Penal Code, §594.1.

Gang-Related Killings and Gang Enhancement Sentences

Individuals guilty of gang-related killings could be charged with both murder and California’s street gang enhancements. The penalties for murder will depend on what class of murder the court considers the offense; learn more about California’s murder laws here. As for California’s street gang enhancements, these special allegations require the state to prove that the murder was committed:

  • at the direction of a criminal street gang;
  • for the benefit of a criminal street gang; or
  • in association with a criminal street gang.

It is likely that defendants convicted of both murder and the gang enhancement will receive a sentence of 15 years to life in prison, which will be in addition and consecutive to the sentencing for the underlying felony.

In some situations, unfortunately prosecutors seek to pursue gang enhancements in any circumstance when homicide is even remotely related to a gang, and this increases the potential sentencing. This is why it is imperative to work with an experienced lawyer to fight back against the prosecution, especially as they may seek to obtain inflammatory evidence. Attorney Eric Samuel Adams, Jr. has experience in both murder defense and gang defense, so you can be sure he knows how to fight such a case.

Depending on the circumstances of the offense, ordering gang enhancements in conjunction with the penalties for the underlying offense could mean an additional 2, 15, or 25 years to life merely for being associated with a gang in the commission of a felony.

Let an Experienced Gang Crime Attorney Help

If you have been charged with gang-related violence in Los Angeles, contact an experienced attorney immediately for legal guidance. Gangs have become a large focus of California’s, and particularly Los Angeles’ law enforcement duties, and laws like the STEP Act and gang enhancements show this. At Adams Law, we understand how detrimental this may be to your future; we are a compassionate firm with a deep understanding of the Los Angeles area. Attorney Eric Samuel Adams, Jr. is a Los Angeles native himself, and he will do his best to defend you against harsh and unfair accusations of gang participation.