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Laws used to fight street gangs

In California, there are a number of laws used to combat criminal gang behavior. The Street Terrorism Enforcement and Prevention Act targets illegal gang activity as well as the organized aspects of street gangs.

Individuals can be charged with a misdemeanor or felony if they knowingly participate in a street gang whose members engage in criminal activity. A person can be sentenced to an additional incarceration term if he or she is convicted of a crime that was performed to contribute to criminal gang activity.

The act also targets unlawful firearm possession or use. If a member of a criminal street gang possesses any type of harmful weapon, including a firearm and its ammunition, to execute certain criminal acts, a peace officer or a member of a law enforcement agency is authorized to confiscate the weapon.

Drive-by shootings are commonly associated with criminal street gangs and are a focus of the STEP Act. If an individual participates in a gang-related drive-by shooting, he or she can be sentenced to an additional term of five years in a state prison. A drive-by shooting includes any shooting that targets an occupied motor vehicle and any shooting that occurs from a motor vehicle.

In addition, anti-graffiti laws are used to combat criminal gang signage. An individual can be charged with a misdemeanor for providing a minor with aerosol paint that can be used to vandalize property.

Anyone who is accused of participating in gang crimes could face a number of consequences, including additional terms of incarceration. A criminal defense attorney may be able to help protect an individual's rights during police questioning and present an effective defense during a trial.

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