Criminal Defense Lawyers
Criminal Street Gang Crimes
PC 186.22 Law & Defense
The laws against participation in a criminal street gang are found at California penal code section 186.22(a) through 186.33(a).
Note: PC 186(a) through 186.33(a) are charged as enhancements to an underlying crime.
For example, if the defendant is alleged to have committed the crime of robbery on behalf of a criminal street gang, the defendant will be charged with both crimes: robbery and the enhancement charge of participation in a criminal street gang.
To be found guilty of PC 186.22 enhancements, the district attorney will need to prove that the defendant was part of a criminal street gang (defined below) and that the defendant committed a crime in furtherance of the criminal street gang.
A criminal street gang is defined as an "ongoing organization, association, or group of three or more persons, whether formal or informal, that meets the following requirements:
A gang that has a common name or common identifying sign or symbol
A gang that engages, as one of its primary activities, in criminal activity of a particular type
A gang whose members, whether acting alone or together, engage in, or have engaged in, a pattern of criminal gang activity."
Important: Not all crimes qualify for enhancement charges of participation in a criminal street gang. Qualifying charges for 186.22 enhancements include: Assault, Robbery, Homicide, Manslaughter, Shooting at an inhabited dwelling, Discharge Firearm from Vehicle, Arson, Witness Intimidation, Grand Theft, Vehicle Theft, Counterfeiting, Identity Theft, Burglary, Rape, Looting, Money Laundering, Kidnapping, Mayhem, Aggravated Mayhem, Torture, Felony Extortion, Felony Vandalism, Carjacking, Concealed Gun, and Criminal Threats.
There are many different specific California penal code sections that deal with participating in a criminal street gang. The particular penal code section or enhancement under which a defendant is charged depends on the facts of the defendant's case. For example, PC 186.22(a) deals with participation in a criminal street gang, while PC 186.33(a) deals with the failure to register as a gang member.
Perhaps the most common criminal street gang charge in California is PC 186.22(a) Criminal Street Gang Activity. To be found guilty of PC 186.22(a) the prosecutor must prove all of the following:
The defendant actively participated in a criminal street gang (defined above), and
When the defendant participated in the gang, he knew that members of the gang engage in, or have engaged in, a pattern of criminal gang activity, and
The defendant willfully assisted, or promoted felonious criminal conduct by members of the gang either by committing a felony or by aiding and abetting a felony.
Per 186.22(a) Active participation in a criminal street gang means something more than just passive activity or participation. There must be some meaningful step towards participation. For example, the mere claim to be part of any particular street gang, by itself, is not enough to be considered actively participating in a criminal street gang. However, a defendant does not have to be completely devoted to a substantial part of the gang's activity to be considered "active" within the meaning of PC 186.22. In other words, whether or not a defendant is actively participating in a criminal street gang is decided on a case by case basis.
Also, just because a defendant commits a felony does not mean that the defendant committed the felony in furtherance of gang activity. For example, if a member of a criminal street gang commits theft of a can of beer from a liquor store does not mean that the defendant committed the crime on behalf of his or her gang. In order for the defendant to be convicted of a gang enhancement under PC 186.22 the prosecutor will have to prove that any of the above listed crimes were committed in furtherance of, or on behalf of, gang activity.
Sentence & Punishment
To be found guilty of actively participate in a criminal street gang can have very serious consequences. For example: If a defendant gang member threatens a witness in a case the defendant may face up to life in prison under PC 186.22(b)(4)(c), even though the defendant only threatened the witness without committing any other crime.
PC 186.22: There is a wide range of sentences and punishment associated with criminal street gang enhancements. The most common criminal street gang charge of PC 186.22(a) may be charged as a misdemeanor or as a felony (wobbler). When PC 186.22(a) is charged as a misdemeanor the defendant may face up to one year in the county jail. When PC 186.22 is charged as a felony the defendant may face up to three years in prison. There is sentence information on the right of this page for PC 186.22(b)(1)(B) Participation in street gang to commit a felony.
Note: For a complete list of criminal street gang crimes and enhancements, including associated punishments, please see right side of this page.
Three Strikes Law: PC 186.22(a) is considered a serious crime and a strike crime as those terms are defined in PC 1192.7 and California's Three Strikes Sentencing Law.
CIMT: PC 186.22 is considered a crime involving moral turpitude, which means that the crime is considered to be inherently wrong or involves deceit. Crimes of moral turpitude have special negative consequences for immigration and professional licensing issues. Non United States citizens convicted of criminal street gang crimes will likely be deported from the United States and denied reentry. Professionals with California professional licenses, such as nurses, barbers, and phlebotomist, may have their state licenses revoked or suspended.
Bail: The bail amount for participation in a street gang to commit a felony (PC 186.22(b)(1)(B) is $100,00 in San Bernardino County (2020).
In addition to any possible jail or prison sentence, PC 186.22 convictions can lead to harsh probation or parole terms, insurmountable monetary penalties, restrictions on associations with persons or places, mandatory registration as a gang member, prohibition from owning or possessing a firearm, criminal protective orders, and more.
PC 186.22 Defense
The most common defenses to participation in a criminal street gang include:
Insufficient evidence to prove the defendant either 1) actively participates in a gang, 2) that any crime the defendant committed was in furtherance of, or on behalf of, a criminal street gang, or 3) the underlying crime was not committed. For example (concerning part 3 of insufficient evidence defense above), if a defendant is charged with committing the crime of robbery in furtherance of a gang, it is a defense to the robbery charge, and the gang enhancement, to successfully defend against the robbery charge (the underlying criminal charge).
Other defenses include: Mistake of fact, Coerced Confession, Entrapment, Statute of limitations, Duress, & Intoxication.
If you have been charged with participation in, engaging in, or activity in, a criminal street gang under PC 186.22(a) thru 186.33(a), contact our criminal defense attorneys without delay. Our criminal defense attorneys dedicate 100% of their practice to criminal defense. We are aggressive, and successful with a proven record of success in gang cases. Call today!
Criminal Defense Lawyers
PC 186.22(a) Criminal street gang activity (up to 3 years in prison as a felony and up to one year in jail as a misdemeanor)
PC 186.22(b)(1)(A) Enhancement - Aiding gang activity (up to 4 years in prison as a felony)
PC 186.22(b)(1)(B) Enhancement - Aiding gang activity/serious felony (up to 5 years in prison as a felony)
PC 186.22(b)(1)(C) Enhancement - aiding gang activity/violent felony (up to life in prison)
PC 186.22(b)(4)(C) Enhancement - gang related extortion of witness threats (up to life in prison)
PC 186.22(b)(5) Enhancement - gang felony conviction with life sentence (up to life in prison)
PC 186.22(d) Aiding criminal street gang activity (felony up to 3 years in prison)
PC 186.26(a) Solicit participation in gang activity by threat (felony up to 4 years in prison)
PC 186.26(b) Solicit participation in gang activity by violence (felony up to 5 years in prison)
PC 186.26(d) Enhancement - Soliciting minor for gang activity (felony up to 3 years in prison)