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2003 Joyriding Case, Bench Warrant Recalled, Case Dismissed

In 2003, our client was 25 years old and living in Seattle, Washington.  His friend had a girlfriend who owned a car that his friend often borrowed with her consent. 

One day, our client, with his friend, took the car and went far beyond where his girlfriend could have imagined.  They drove 21 hours south to Los Angeles to buy a large load of drugs.

Before they could pick up the drugs, our client and his twenty-year-old girlfriend were driving westbound on Victory Boulevard in the Van Nuys area.  It was 2:30 a.m. and police spotted the car because it had license plates from the State of Washington.  Van Nuys police called in the plates to the station, who reported that the owner of the car had reported the car stolen.

Police then pulled over the car.  Our client was driving and explained to police that his friend had permission to use the car.  Police found a small amount of methamphetamine, crack cocaine and marijuana in the car, which our client’s female friend claimed ownership.  Police held our client for about an hour, booked him on grand theft auto and receiving stolen property.  They then let him go without even impounding the car.  Our client and his friend then returned to Washington State (with the drugs, no less).

Our client believed the matter had been regarded by police as a mistake.  Eighteen years later, in 2021, however, he was notified by his employer that there was a felony bench warrant for him out of the Van Nuys Superior Court.

This puzzled our client because a few years later, he had served a 70-month prison sentence in Washington state for transporting and sales of a controlled substance after this case and nothing was mentioned about a California case, i.e., being extradited to California after he finished his Washington case.

Our client had turned his life around in the meantime, becoming a homeowner and marrying.  He had a good paying job and paid his taxes, so have a skeleton from his past re-emerge was disheartening and seemed to jeopardize his new life.

The client, now age 43, called Greg Hill & Associates and spoke to Greg.  Our client explained the Van Nuys case and his current status in life in Washington. 

Greg looked up the docket in the case and called the client back.  Greg explained that because the bench warrant was for a felony, normally the client would need to come to court in person to have the bench warrant recalled.  However, due to COVID-19, Greg may be able to appear under Penal Code § 977(b)(2) on the client’s behalf without him needing to appear in person.  Greg cautioned the client that some judges would not accept a waiver of one’s personal appearance and consent to an attorney representing someone from out of state or even outside the United States.  Greg had seen judges deny such requests.

theft_99_-_van_nuys_courthouse.jpgVan Nuys Courthouse

The client said he was willing to try and Greg made no guarantees.  However, the judge accepted a notarized 977(b)(2) waiver and consent form from the client and Greg had the bench warrant recalled.  The client was also arraigned on charges of felony taking of an automobile without the owner’s consent (“joyriding”), a violation of Vehicle Code § 10851, and felony receiving stolen property, Penal Code § 496.

The deputy district attorney handling the matter remarked that she needed to try to find the file and that it might have been one of many from that time that were destroyed in a flood.  She asked for four weeks to find the file.

Four weeks later, the case was called again and the prosecutor advised that she could not find the file, but that she could “recreate” it by asking the police to provide their police report and then she could proceed from there.

Greg decided at this point not to waive time and set the preliminary hearing without waiving time, to put pressure on the police to act quickly to find their file.

At the date of the preliminary hearing, it appeared as if Greg’s strategy was doomed, as the police officer who made the arrest of our client appeared in court with the police report.  Greg then chatted with the police officer, who turned out to be a Marine Corps veteran and who had been at several overseas bases at the same time as Greg.  Oddly, Greg and the officer swapped memories of the unique characteristics of such bases and the towns outside.

The district attorney then discussed the case with the officer to prepare for the preliminary hearing.  Greg sat and waited nervously.  The district attorney then reported that the officer had been able to speak to the vehicle owner in Washington State, using the same phone number from 18 years ago.   

The district attorney then reported that, contrary to what Greg expected, that the People would be unable to proceed (UTP).  The case was then called and the People announced they were UTP.  The judge then dismissed the case under Penal Code § 1385 (“in the interests of justice”).

Our client was extremely happy with the result, especially since he never had to incur the expense of coming down from Washington to California.  Greg never found out exactly why the People were unable to proceed and if the former Marine did a favor for Greg, also a former Marine.

For more information about joyriding and receiving stolen property, please click on the following articles:
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