1. Penal Code 186.22(a) PC, the crime of participation in a gang

This part of the law makes it a crime to participate in a street gang and assist in any felony criminal conduct by the gang’s members.

The penalties for participation in a gang, in violation of Penal Code 186.22(a) PC, can include one (1) year in county jail . . . or a felony sentence of sixteen (16) months, two (2) years or three (3) years in state prison.

2. Penal Code 186.22(b) PC, the gang sentencing enhancement

This part of the law provides that anyone who commits a felony for the benefit of a gang will receive a mandatory prison sentence . . . in addition and consecutive to the penalty s/he receives for the underlying felony.

Depending on the circumstances of the offense, Penal Code 186.22(b) PC could mean an additional two (2) to fifteen (15) years, or even twenty-five (25)-years-to-life, in prison…even if you’re not a gang member, and even if you aren’t the individual who was most directly responsible for committing the underlying felony.


Just because a person is a gang member doesn’t mean everything he does is on behalf or for the benefit of the gang. Just as a cop who beats his wife didn’t do it “on behalf or for the benefit” of the Police department.

Potentially helpful legal defenses against a Penal Code 186.22 PC charge include:

  • You didn’t commit the underlying felony;
  • You are not an “active participant” in a gang;
  • You weren’t acting for the benefit of a gang;
  • The prosecutor is seeking to apply the gang sentencing enhancement in an illegal way; and/or
  • Imposing the gang sentencing enhancement would go against “the interests of justice.”