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About Los Angeles Criminal Law Center

Los Angeles Criminal Law Center is sponsored by The Rodriguez Law Group, a criminal defense firm serving Los Angeles, CA and the surrounding areas. The Rodriguez Law Group was founded by Ambrosio E. Rodriguez, a former prosecutor with over 18 years experience. During his time as a prosecutor, Mr. Rodriguez handled serious criminal matters including sex crimes and death penalty cases. The information on this site is intended to assist anyone going through the criminal justice process.

What is the California Street Gang Enhancement Law?

Two Los Angeles men have been arrested in connection with a gang-related shooting at a homeless encampment in Highland Park. Reports indicate that at least one homeless man was killed and another was seriously injured in the attack. The men believed to have been involved were charged with murder and attempted murder. Police believe that the shooting was gang-related, which could aggravate the criminal penalties imposed if the men are convicted.

California’s Gang Enhancement Law

Crimes committed in connection with a street gang can have serious consequences. In 1988, California enacted the Street Terrorism Enforcement and Prevention Act to protect citizens from “fear, intimidation, and physical harm caused by the activities of violent groups and individuals.” The law, which is also known as the STEP Act, makes it a crime for individuals to participate in street gang activities and/or aid in the commission of any felony criminal conduct by street gang members. When the STEP Act is violated, the state is permitted to impose harsher criminal penalties for those gang-related crimes.

Conduct Prohibited Under the STEP Act

California STEP Act prohibits a wide range of gang-related activities. Under the Act, as defined in Penal Code 186.22 PC, it is illegal to:

  1. Actively participate in any criminal street gang,
  2. With knowledge that its members engage in, or have engaged in, a pattern of criminal gang activity, and
  3. Willfully promote, further, or assist any felony criminal activity by gang members.

In order to understand when the STEP Act may apply, it is important to know what each of these elements means.

What is a Criminal Street Gang?

In California, a criminal street gang is defined to mean:

  1. Any group, organization, or association having three or more people
  2. Which engages in criminal activity as one of its primary activities
  3. With a common name or identifying symbol
  4. Whose members engage in (or have engaged in) a pattern of criminal gang activity.

In other words, a criminal street gang is a group of at least three people that regularly engage in criminal activity and has an identifying name or symbol.

What is a Pattern of Criminal Gang Activity?

Generally speaking, a pattern of criminal gang activity is engaging in multiple acts of criminal behavior in furtherance of a gang. More specifically, California law defines criminal gang activity to mean:

  1. Committing at least two crimes listed in Penal Code 186.22(e) within a three year period, and
  2. Committing these crimes on at least two separate occasions or by at least two different people.

Crimes that are listed in Penal Code 186.22(e) include:

  • Assault with a deadly weapon
  • Robbery
  • Homicide or manslaughter
  • Sale, distribution, or manufacture of controlled substances
  • Arson
  • Grand theft
  • Intimidation of witnesses
  • Rape
  • Burglary
  • Looting
  • Money laundering
  • Kidnapping
  • Carjacking
  • Mayhem, and more.

Enhancements to Criminal Sentences

When you are convicted of a gang-related crime, you will face criminal penalties for the underlying crime and your activity in connection with a gang.

Violations of 186.22(a), active participation in a street gang, is punishable by an additional:

  • One year in a Los Angeles County jail, or
  • 16 months, two years, or three years in a California state prison.

Violations of 186.22(b), assisting a gang member with the commission of a felony, is punishable by an additional:

  • Two, three, or four years in a California state prison
  • Five years in prison for committing a serious felony (defined in 1192.7 PC), or
  • Ten years in prison for committing a violent felony (defined in 667.5 PC).

Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorneys

Have you been arrested for a crime that police believe is connected to a criminal street gang? If you are convicted of the crime, you can face additional criminal penalties under California’s gang enhancement law. This could mean spending an additional one to ten years in prison. Call the Los Angeles Criminal Law Center for help fighting any criminal charges you may face.

Our Los Angeles criminal defense attorneys understand that your future is on the line and will fight to minimize the consequences of your arrest. Call today to request a free consultation and learn more about how we can help you protect your future.

Last year, a Los Angeles road rage accident was caught on camera and went viral. The incident began when a motorcyclist and a driver of sedan got into an argument on the road. The motorcyclist sped up next to the car, yelled profanities, and then kicked the driver’s door. The car veered into the motorcyclist, pinned him against the road’s center divider, and then crashed into a truck. The truck flipped over and landed on its roof. The truck’s driver was seriously injured and transported to the hospital for care. Until earlier this week, the motorcyclist who caused the accident could not be found. After conducting a thorough investigation, Los Angeles police arrested the man they believe to be at fault. The motorcyclist is facing criminal charges, including a charge for assault with a deadly weapon.

Assault With a Deadly Weapon

We tend to think of guns and knives as instruments that are used to commit assault with a deadly weapon. However, the definition of what qualifies as a deadly weapon is fairly broad. Courts have explained that a deadly weapon should be defined to include “any object, instrument, or weapon which is used in such a manner as to be capable of producing and likely to produce, death or great bodily injury.” As a direct result of this broad interpretation, many different items can qualify as a deadly weapon.

How does a motorcycle qualify as a deadly weapon? In order to be a deadly weapon, an item must be:

  1. Capable of causing harm, and
  2. Used in a way that is likely to produce death or great bodily injury.

The average motorcycle on the road can weigh anywhere between 200-1,000 pounds. When driving at high speeds, a motorcycle can be incredibly dangerous and capable of causing harm.

When a motorcycle rider uses his bike in an effort to drive another person off of the roadway, that behavior is likely to cause great bodily harm or death. As a result, a motorcycle, at least in this situation, can be considered a dangerous weapon.

Penalties for Assault With a Deadly Weapon

Since the road rage motorcyclist caused such devastation with a dangerous weapon, he is facing criminal charges for assault with a deadly weapon. In California, assault with a deadly weapon can be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony. The specific details of the crime will help the state to determine which type of charge should be filed. Factors that may influence the severity of the charge include:

  • Whether victims sustained injuries or harm
  • The degree of harm suffered by the victims
  • The type of dangerous weapon used in the assault
  • Whether the victim was a member of a protected class (e.g., elderly, police, disabled), and
  • The defendant’s record of criminal behavior.

Misdemeanor assault with a deadly weapon is punishable by up to one year in a Los Angeles County jail and $1,000 in fines.

Felony assault with a deadly weapon is punishable by 2, 3, or 4 years in a California state prison and $10,000 in fines.

The penalties can be aggravated if a firearm was involved or if victims were seriously injured or killed because of the assault.

Defending Assault With a Deadly Weapon Charges

Police investigated the Los Angeles road rage incident for seven months before making an arrest. During this time, they likely collected and analyzed a significant amount of evidence to support their case. The defendant will have the opportunity to contest the charges and defend himself. The following defenses may be helpful:

  • The deadly weapon was not used in a way that was likely to produce harm
  • Acting in self-defense, or
  • The act was not done willfully.

Fighting Criminal Charges in Los Angeles

The Los Angeles road rage motorcyclist has the right to defend himself. His chances of securing the best possible outcome in his case will increase if he hires an experienced Los Angeles criminal defense attorney to handle his case. An attorney will understand the best strategy for a defense and make it more difficult for the state to satisfy their burden of proof.

If you are facing criminal charges for assault with a  deadly weapon in Los Angeles, do not hesitate to contact the Los Angeles Criminal Law Center for help. Our experienced attorneys will review your case, explain your rights, and answer the questions you have.

Pomona Teen Arrested for Making Criminal Threats on Social Media

A 15-year-old Pomona teen has been arrested and is facing criminal charges for making criminal threats with a weapon. Reports indicate that the teen filmed himself holding a weapon and threatening the safety of another student at his high school. The video was uploaded onto a popular social media site for the intended victim and others to see. Police were notified of the video and promptly visited the threat-making teen at his home. A handgun was discovered in the home and the boy was arrested on suspicion of making criminal threats.

Criminal Threats

While we generally have the right to speak our minds and communicate our feelings, we do not have the right to threaten others. It is a crime to make criminal threats in California. Criminal threats are defined in Penal Code 422 PC to mean specific threats to kill or physically harm another person that put victims in a reasonable fear for their safety. Criminal threats can be communicated electronically, verbally, or in writing.

Elements of a Criminal Threat

In order to be convicted of making criminal threats the state must be able to prove each element of the crime. The elements that are required to make a criminal threat include:

  1. You willfully threatened to kill or injure another person.
  2. You made the threat orally, in writing, or electronically.
  3. You intended that the statement be understood and comprehended as a threat.
  4. The threat you made was clear, immediate, unconditional, and specific.
  5. The threat caused the victim to suffer a reasonable fear for his/her safety, or the safety of his/her loved ones.

Threats Can Be Empty

You don’t have to follow through on a criminal threat for it to be a crime. It is enough to issue a threat that puts a victim in a reasonable state of fear for his/her imminent safety. Whether or not fear is reasonable is a question of fact that will depend on the specific circumstances of each case. Factors that may be relevant in determining if fear is reasonable include:

  • The existing relationship between the parties,
  • The actual substance of the threat itself,
  • The proximity of the parties, and
  • The criminal history of the defendant making the threat.

Consequences of Making a Criminal Threat

Making a criminal threat can be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony in California. The exact nature of the charge will depend on the substance of the threat and the defendant’s criminal history. If you make multiple threats you will face individual charges for each of those threats.

When charged as a misdemeanor, making a criminal threat is punishable by one year in a Los Angeles County jail and/or $1,000 in criminal fines.

When charged as a felony, making a criminal threat is punishable by up to three years in a California state prison and/or $10,000 in criminal fines.

Making a criminal threat, when charged as a felony, is considered to be a strike offense and a crime involving moral turpitude. This means that the consequences of a conviction will likely result in harsher criminal (and noncriminal) penalties. You may face additional jail time, adverse immigration consequences, and the loss of certain professional rights.

Fighting Criminal Threat Charges in Los Angeles

If you have been accused of making criminal threats in Los Angeles do not hesitate to speak with an attorney. You have the right to assert a defense. Hiring an attorney to handle this defense will increase the odds of beating these charges. A persuasive defense will limit the state’s ability to build a case against you. This will force prosecutors to the negotiating table. There, your attorney can leverage your arguments to secure favorable plea bargains or a dismissal of the charges.

Call the Los Angeles Criminal Law Center to request a free consultation and find out how we can help you fight the criminal charges you face. We offer a free consultation to prospective clients, so do not hesitate to call us today.