Two Thousand Oaks men have each pleaded guilty to a single felony count of street terrorism and two counts second-degree robbery. The plea stems from a pair of bank robberies the trio committed in Thousand Oaks in early- and mid-2013. The two men admitted to robbing the same Citibank branch in Thousand Oaks twice within four months.

Because both male defendants have admitted to prior felonies and have special enhancements related to the robberies, they are expected to receive a prison term of twelve years. A third person, a 21-year old female, served as the getaway driver for both robberies and is currently serving a five-year sentence for one count each of street terrorism and robbery.

What is “street terrorism” and when is this charge applied?  The California Street Terrorism Enforcement and Prevention (STEP) Act of 1988 introduced the crime of “street terrorism.” The Act was designed to curb crimes committed in support of gang activities in California. The Act is defined under the California Penal Code Section 186.2, and makes it a crime to be a member of a street gang and assist in criminal activities designed to support the gang or its members.

Participation in a street gang can be punished by detention in the county jail for a period of not more than one year, or by prison terms ranging from 16 months to three years, depending upon the circumstances surrounding the crime. Most STEP enhancements can extend prison sentences by as much as 15 years. For certain convictions, STEP enhancements can extend a prison sentence by 25 years to life in prison! Street terrorism sentences are served consecutively with any other sentences applied by a Judge, meaning that they are served in addition to any other sentences.

You do not need to be a member of a street gang to be charged with a STEP offense. If you merely aid a gang member in the commission of a gang-related felony, you can be convicted under the STEP Act. The seriousness of a STEP Act charge and the accompanying prison terms mean that you need the help of a competent criminal defense.

Robert M. Helfend is a criminal defense attorney in Ventura County, and has successfully defended clients facing California criminal charges for 30 years. Mr. Helfend provides aggressive criminal defense in Ventura County. For a consultation on your case involving STEP Act violations, contact the Law Offices of Robert M. Helfend toll-free at (800) 834-6434 or locally at (805) 273-5611, (310) 456-3317, or (818) 591-2809. Robert M. Helfend is an experienced criminal defense attorney who can help you!

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