In April 2016, a federal class-action lawsuit was filed against the “Lunada Bay Boys,” a group of surfers in Palos Verdes Estates, California who are known for intimidating and keeping visitors from surfing at their favorite beach. The suit alleges that they are a “criminal street gang” which should be banned from gathering together under California law.
Surfers – and any other groups - in Orange County or elsewhere in California can be designated a “criminal street gang.” They can be prosecuted under special laws that include enhanced penalties when certain acts are committed by the gang or its members.
What is a “Criminal Street Gang”?
As defined in the "California Street Terrorism Enforcement and Prevention Act" (California Penal Code Section 186.22(a)), a “criminal street gang” is a group of three or more people which:
- has a common name or identifying sign or symbol
- has, as one of its primary activities, the commission of one of a lengthy list of specific California criminal offenses (such as assault, battery, vandalism, intimidation, harassment, extortion, and many more), and
- whose members have engaged in a "pattern of criminal gang activity"...either alone or together.
Determining what constitutes a “pattern of criminal activity” for purposes of California's criminal street gang statute can be complicated, but generally, it means:
- the commission of two or more crimes from the list of specified crimes,
- on two or more separate occasions or by two (2) or more people,
- within three years of each other, and
- with at least one crime committed after September 1988.
Participation in a gang in Orange County can itself be a crime under California law. The penalties for participation in a gang, in violation of Penal Code 186.22(a), can include one year in county jail . . . or a California felony sentence of 16 months, two years or three years in state prison.
Additionally, “gang sentencing enhancement penalties” can be applied to specified crimes committed while participating in an Orange County gang. These penalties are in addition to those regularly imposed for such offenses. In order for the gang sentencing enhancement to apply, you must be convicted of the underlying offense and prosecutors must prove that:
- You committed . . . or attempted to commit . . . the crime for the benefit of, at the direction of, or in association with a criminal street gang; and
- When you committed the crime, you intended to assist, further, or promote criminal conduct by members of the gang.
If you are facing Orange County criminal charges related to your participation in a street gang, you are facing serious penalties, including a lengthy prison sentence. Please call one of our experienced Orange County, California criminal defense attorneys today to discuss your situation.