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11 Year Bench Warrant Recalled, Van Nuys Shoplifting

In 2011, our client was 19 years old.  She and some friends went into a Kmart in Van Nuys.  Our client found a sweater which she liked that the store was selling.  She put it on and walked out of the store, with the price tags conspicuously showing.  As might be anticipated, loss prevention stopped her just feet outside the store and she took off the sweater, returning it to Kmart.

Her friends, all also teenagers, also stole other items and were also stopped.

The Los Angeles Police Department was summoned to the scene and our client was taken to the police station, along with her friends.  They were then booked and released after signing a promise to appear in the Van Nuys Superior Court about two months later.

Our client never appeared in court and was not even aware that she had to do so, despite signing the promise to appear at the police station when she was released.

Fast forward to 2022 and our client is now 30 years old and living in Pennsylvania with a steady job.  One day her employer contacts her and advises her that a routine background check on her has revealed that she had an active bench warrant from California.

The client then called Greg Hill & Associates and explained the situation.  She stated, “I can’t believe Target is pressing charges.  They got the sweater back.  It was only $50.”

Greg then explained that the Los Angeles City Attorney’s Office, not Target, files charges and that the issue really was not the value of the item stolen, but the stealing itself regardless of the item value. 

Greg then explained how a bench warrant is recalled and warned the client that in Van Nuys, there was one judge who would not permit recall of a bench warrant for misdemeanors without the client appearing in person.  The judge was perhaps the strictest in Los Angeles County on this issue (his name will not be stated in this summary).

Greg further suggested to the client that she enroll in and complete an online shoplifting prevention course (for example through Logan Social Services, Tom Wilson Counseling, the National Association of Shoplifting Prevention or Third Millennium) prior to Greg appearing in the Van Nuys Superior Court, so that Greg could show the assigned Los Angeles City Attorney the certificate and perhaps the prosecutor would simply dismiss the case, or at least allow judicial diversion of the case. 

Greg then explained what judicial diversion was and how it worked.

The client then retained Greg Hill & Associates and Greg appeared in the Van Nuys Superior court for the client.  Luckily, the case was not assigned to the judge who required the defendant to personally appear to recall a bench warrant regardless of where he or she now lived.  Instead, it was assigned to another judge who recalled the warrant without hesitation.

The case was then assigned to another judge, coincidentally the one who is so tough on bench warrants.  However, the warrant had already been recalled, so he could not impose such a requirement on our client.

Greg and the Los Angeles City Attorney then discussed the case facts and Greg confirmed, by looking at the ticket in the court file, that our client had in fact signed a promise to appear in court when she was released from custody.

Had she not signed such a promise, Greg could have brought a motion to dismiss the case based on a deprivation of the client’s Sixth Amendment right to a speedy trial under Serna v. Superior Court (1985) 40 Cal.3d 239, 707 P.2d 793, 219 Cal. Rptr. 420.

However, the Los Angeles City Attorney offered to dismiss the case if our client completed an online shoplifting prevention program, which our client had not done after Greg recommended it to her before being retained.

Greg then set a further pretrial hearing for our client so she could have time to complete the online shoplifting prevention course and have the case dismissed.  She was happy to have this opportunity.

For more information about bench warrant recall issues, please click on the following articles:
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"Thank you so much for putting so much effort in this case. We really appreciate it and we are happy that all turned out well." S.A., Torrance
"Greg Hill did an outstanding job on every level. He was efficient, thorough, knowledgeable, courteous, responsive & brilliant. He welcomed my input and my concerns. . . from the first conversation to the last - I always felt 'it mattered' to him." S.C., Rolling Hills Estates
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