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California Criminal Street Gang Offenses and Enhancements

The California Street Terrorism Enforcement and Prevention Act of 1988 (Cal. Pen. Code §186.20, et. seq.) ("The STEP Act"), created a substantive crime of being an active participant in a criminal street gang (§ 186.22(a)) and a sentencing enhancement for committing a felony for the benefit of a criminal street gang (§ 186.22(b))Proposition 21, enacted in 2000, added an alternative sentencing scheme for committing a felony or misdemeanor for the benefit of a criminal street gang (§ 186.22(d)). These provisions have been the subject of much litigation over the years. This article provides an outline of the several gang provisions and their elements, as well as some coverage of evidentiary issues. For additional research on evidentiary issues related to the admission of expert testimony on whether a defendant was a gang member and on whether an offense was committed for the benefit of a gang, consult the Sixth District Appellate Program's 2008 outline on Challenging the Testimony of Gang Experts.