If you live in the San Diego area, you probably know that, until this year, gang activity had actually been on the decline. Sadly, that trend is changing. This year, there has been a big increase in the number of gang-related crimes and gang-related homicides.
In fact, there had been twice as many homicides by June as there had been in all of 2018. And, gang-related crimes, in general, is up by more than 20%. To give you an idea of this increase, there have been 463 gang-related crimes already and 10 gang homicides. And the years are far from over.
Authorities report that there are more robberies, assaults with deadly weapons, and attempted murders than the city’s seen in years. San Diego law enforcement has had to take advantage of the Street Terrorism Enforcement and Prevention Act even more. This law allows the State to apply harsher penalties to people who commit gang-related crimes.
This means that, if you’ve been charged with a gang crime, you’ll be facing very serious penalties. San Diego and the entire state takes these crimes very seriously. You don’t want to attempt to handle this on your own. You really should contact an experienced San Diego criminal defense lawyer.
How Does California Define a Gang?
The penal code of California defines a gang pretty clearly. In order to qualify as a gang or game crime, the following criteria must apply:
- The organization has 3 or more people
- They all have a common name, identifying mark or symbol
- Their primary activity is the commission of gang crimes
- Their members either individually or collectively engage in criminal activity
Once you’ve been identified as a gang member, you’ll be on the police’s radar. If you get arrested for any of the crimes listed in the gang statute, you’ll be charged under the enhanced penalty structure of the STEP act.
Some of the crimes included in the list of gang-related offenses include:
- Murder or attempted murder
- Drug trafficking
- Kidnapping or rape
- Grand larceny
This is just a few of the crimes listed on the California penal code as it related to gang crimes. Any of the crimes committed that are on the list are eligible for enhanced penalties.
How Can Your San Diego Criminal Defense Lawyer Fight These Charges?
It can be very difficult to fight these charges. Once you’re identified as being affiliated with a gang, it’s almost impossible to lose that label. The cops get an idea of which people are in which gang. Also, once you’ve been arrested for one gang-related crime, it’s hard to avoid detection.
In order to avoid being charged or convicted of gang crime, your criminal defense lawyer in San Diego will have to prove you’re not part of a gang. It is very difficult to prove the absence of something.
Your attorney will look at the elements of the crime for which you’ve been charged. They’ll attack each element in order to get the charges dismissed. But the biggest obstacle will be proving or convincing the prosecutor that you are not associated or in the gang.
Why Are Gang Crimes Treated So Harshly?
The thing about gang crimes is that they threaten the general public. For example, imagine a situation in which Defendant John Doe is angry at Victim Steve Snow for a particular reason. It’s not unimaginable that John and Steve could get into a physical altercation. Does Steve deserve to be attacked? Maybe not. However, at least there is a relationship between the aggressor and the victim.
Now, let’s consider a different example. Let’s imagine that John Doe is in a gang. In order to be initiated into the inner circle of his gang, he’s told to shoot a stranger. John wants to stay in the gang so he does it. He finds a 38-year old man, who’s the father of two, and shoots him while he’s putting change in the meter.
Clearly, the government of California wants to protect these innocent victims. That’s why they put the STEP act into effect in 1998. They want to specifically protect people from random and intentional acts of criminal violence.
Contact an Experienced Criminal Defense Lawyer in San Diego
If you or your loved one have been arrested and charged with a gang crime, you need help. You don’t want to handle this on your own. You need to call an experienced criminal lawyer in San Diego.
Your attorney can answer any questions you may have. Call San Diego Criminal today and schedule your initial consultation.