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Name: People v. Johnson
Case #: F057736
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 5 DCA
Opinion Date: 04/26/2012
Subsequent History: Review granted 8/8/12: S202790
Summary

Because a criminal street gang is a form of conspiracy, a defendant cannot properly be charged with conspiracy to actively participate in a criminal street gang (Pen. Code, § 186.22, subd. (a)). On appeal, defendants argued that they were improperly charged with conspiracy to violate Penal Code section 186.22, subdivision (a), active participation in a criminal street gang. The Court of Appeal agreed. Based on an analysis of the general conspiracy statute (Pen. Code, § 182) and Penal Code section 186.22, the court concluded that a criminal street gang is a form of conspiracy. The prosecution essentially charged the defendants with conspiracy to actively participate in a conspiracy; this was improper. While the defendants argued that a charge of conspiracy to commit a conspiracy was “an absurd redundancy” and unconstitutionally vague, the Court of Appeal noted that such a crime may be a “conclusive legal falsehood.” Additionally, the court found nothing to suggest that the Legislature intended to criminalize conspiracy to actively participate in a criminal street gang by means of the general conspiracy statute. There was also an implicit recognition in an analysis of Proposition 21 in the ballot pamphlet that the general conspiracy statute could not be applied to Penal Code section 186.22, subdivision (a), because a criminal street gang was itself a species of conspiracy.