Fear of gang violence across California in 1988 led to the passage of the Street Terrorism Enforcement and Prevention Act. Known as the “STEP Act,” this law determined that a person who engaged in specific crimes as a gang member or helped a gang member engage in certain crimes would not only be sentenced for the crime but receive an additional sentence due to their gang affilitation.
A recent California court ruling shows the importance of understanding how gang enhancements work.
Gang Enhancement Overturned
In Maquiz MacDonald v. Hedgpeth (No 16-55240), Felix Maquiz MacDonald (referred to as Maquiz) was convicted of a robbery that he committed by himself and a robbery he participated in with other members of a gang. At trial, Riverside Deputy Sheriff Eric Brewer testified that anything obtained by an individual in the commission of the crime could potentially be used by the gang they are associated with. The jury found that both robberies were committed to benefit the gang and Maquiz received a 10-year gang enhancement.
Maquiz appealed the gang enhancement in regards to the robbery he committed alone. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the testimony of a gang expert on how a solo robbery could benefit a gang was not enough to support the gang enhancement. As a result, the enhancement was dropped from Maquiz’s sentence.
The Elements of a Gang Enhancement (PC 186.22(b))
- You committed a felony crime
- The crime was gang-related, AND
- You had specific intent to promote, further or assist criminal gang conduct when committing the crime
The prosecution will attempt to show that the crime you committed benefitted a gang by enhancing its reputation for being violent or that you committed the felony at the direction of a gang or with gang members.
In the Maquiz case, the evidence presented in his solo robbery case showed that he committed it alone. He had not worn or displayed any gang symbols, tattoos, signs or colors. In fact, when committing the robbery, Maquiz held a hand over his face and pulled a cap down to his eyes in order to remain anonymous. Therefore, his actions would not have any effect on the gang’s reputation.
The gang enhancement Maquiz received for a solo robbery was overturned for two reasons: the hard work of a skilled criminal defense lawyer and Maquiz never gave up. You should not give up on your case either. Contact an experienced criminal defense lawyer at Wallin & Klarich immediately if you or someone you know is facing serious criminal charges.
Contact the Skilled Criminal Defense Attorneys at Wallin & Klarich Today
If you or a loved one has been accused of a gang-related crime, you should speak with an experienced criminal defense attorney right away. At Wallin & Klarich, our knowledgeable criminal defense attorneys have more than 40 years of experience successfully defending clients facing charges involving gang-related offenses. Let us help you now.
With offices in Orange County, Riverside, San Bernardino, Victorville, West Covina, Torrance, Los Angeles and San Diego, you can find an experienced Wallin & Klarich criminal defense attorney available near you no matter where you work or live.
Call our office today at (877) 4-NO-JAIL or (877) 466-5245 for a free phone consultation. We will be there when you call.