In California, it is a crime to actively participate in a gang in two specific ways. To activity participate in a gang means to take part in the crimes gang members commit. Proof of this involves two aspects.

The first is if the defendant has the knowledge its members engaged in a series of criminal activity. The second is if the defendant willfully assisted, promoted, or furthered felonious crimes by committed gang members. For example, if a person willfully assisted in a gang crime by acting as a getaway driver, they might be held liable under California gang laws.

Are There Specific Crimes Associated with Gang Violence and Active Affiliation?

California has a long list of crimes that are associated with gang violence including: 

In some cases, a person can be charged with gang affiliation, even if they are not a formal member of a gang. The defendant can be charged if they are an associate or willfully help, also known as aiding and abetting, a gang member commit a crime.

An example of this is where a person knowingly provides assistance to gang members who are involved in drug trafficking. Another example is where a person assist a gang member in a theft case by knowingly receiving and storing the stolen goods from a gang member.

What is the Punishment for a Gang Affiliation Conviction?

The criminal sentence for gang affiliation is a wobbler, meaning that it can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony. If charged with misdemeanor gang affiliation, the defendant can face up to 364 days in jail and a fine of up to $1,000.

Felony gang affiliation charges can involve longer sentences served in a federal prison (rather than a county jail), and higher criminal fines. Persons charged with felonies may also sometimes lose certain rights, such as the right to own a firearm.

A defendant convicted for committing a felony for the benefit of a gang may be subject to what is known as a “gang promotion conviction”. They will receive a mandatory prison sentence, as well as a punishment for the felony they committed. This could mean an additional 2 to 15 years, or possibly 25 years to life depending on the underlying felony.

Should I Contact a Lawyer for Help with a Gang Participation Charge?

California laws regarding gang activity, gang participation, and gang affiliation can be complex. You may wish to contact a California criminal lawyer near you if you need assistance fighting a gang-related criminal charge. Your attorney can provide guidance and legal representation for your case.