Authorities arrested thirty-six alleged members and associates of the Nuestra Familia (our family) criminal street gang for drug distribution conspiracy and related charges. Each defendant faces life in prison and a $4,000,000 fine. Federal, California, and local law enforcement agencies were all working together on this operation.
These penalties are so severe because of the fact that the defendants are suspected gang members and/or affiliates. People who commit crimes “for the benefit of, at the direction of, or in association with any criminal street gang” face severe penalties under Penal Code 186.22 PC California’s criminal street gang sentencing enhancement.
Penal Code 186.22 PC California’s criminal street gang sentencing enhancement automatically elevates the penalty that is normally associated with any given crime. For example, a non-gang related home-invasion robbery carries a three, six, or nine-year California state prison sentence. The same crime, when committed “for the benefit of, at the direction of, or in association with any criminal street gang”, carries a sentence of 15-years-to-life.
These enhanced penalties apply to everyone who participates in an offense, whether or not they are leaders, members, or simply “acquaintances” of the gang if the prosecution can prove that the motivation for the offense is gang-related.