Officials in Stanislaus County, California say that the Central Valley Gang Impact Task force led a 10-month investigation before launching a highly visible sweep last week as authorities arrested 14 people on charges ranging from murder to drug crimes. The investigation and arrests involved officers and agents from the federal state and local levels. While many of the people were arrested on federal criminal charges, at least seven were taken into custody on state crimes.

Many people believe that a task force probe looks solely at a distinct and individual alleged offense. But, a task force probe may be opened to investigate general crimes. The latest visible sweep involved arrests in a variety of state and federal criminal allegations that may not be connected to each other in any way.

Authorities claim that the nearly year-long probe looked into allegations of criminal activity, and law enforcement believes that at least one alleged offense may have links to the Nuestra Familia or the street level gang known as the Norteños. But, in the end, not all of the people arrested in the sweep have been linked to gangs, according to information from the Modesto Bee.

Three of the people arrested during the alleged gang crime sweep appeared in court on attempted murder charges with gang related enhancements. The attempted murder charges arose on allegations that the defendants can be linked to an alleged drive-by shooting last November in Turlock, California.

Officials claim that whoever was the shooter missed the intended target, but struck a man who was walking with the intended target. Authorities suspect that the alleged drive-by can be linked to a gang. One of the defendants was 16 at the time of the alleged offense, but Stanislaus County authorities are seeking to prosecute the teen as an adult.

Two other adults were arraigned on robbery charges. It does not appear that the gang task force or other officials believe the two accused of a home invasion robbery in January have any gang ties, but the two are facing enhancements for allegedly using a gun and causing a victim great bodily injury in the alleged home-invasion robbery.

In separate arrests, authorities arrested two Turlock, California residents on drug charges, but those two were not arraigned same day as the five others arrested on state crimes. It does not appear from a report that the two facing drug charges are facing any enhancements.

There has been a great deal of public debate in recent years over the issue of the California three strikes law, which essentially is a sentencing enhancement provision that can increase exposure to lengthier prison sentences for people accused of a new crime who have a prior record that includes one or more convictions for a serious or violent felony that qualifies as a "strike" under California law.

But, California law has other provisions that allow authorities to seek sentencing enhancements outside of the three strikes law. For instance, enhancements may involve allegations related to guns, gangs, great bodily injury or carjacking offenses under California law.

Prosecutors use sentencing enhancements to increase the punishment if a person is convicted of criminal charges. Fighting an underlying charge is one way to defend against sentencing enhancements. But a criminal defense lawyer can also fight the enhancement itself.

Source: The Modesto Bee, "Regional gang sweep was 10 months in the making," Rosalio Ahumada, March 21, 2013