Our client, age 25, was returning to his car from a liquor store in Downey near Third Street and Downey Avenue. He had not been drinking at a bar or restaurant, as is common in most public urination cases. It was about 8:00 p.m. in February 2021, at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in Los Angeles County, so no bars were open anyways.
As he was walking back to his car, he decided to simply stop and urinate against a wall on Third Street. As his luck would have it, just as he was doing so, a Downey Police Department car was driving by and police saw our client in the act of urinating in public, a violation of Downey Municipal Code § 4115.
The police officer stopped his car and ordered our client to approach him. The officer asked our client what he was doing. “I was taking a piss” answered our client, according to the police report. The report also stated that the officer observed wet pavement nearby.
The officer then asked for our client’s driver’s license and issued him a citation for violating Downey Municipal Code § 4115. Our client was asked to sign the ticket as a promise to appear in the Downey Superior Court in about three months. Our client signed the ticket and then the officer handed him back his driver’s license and a copy of the ticket.
The client returned to his car and went home. Once at home, he looked at the ticket more closely and realized he had been cited for a misdemeanor. The client then did a little Internet research on the offense and learned it was punishable by up to six months in county jail.
The client then called Greg Hill & Associates and spoke with Greg Hill about the citation and what he could do. Greg first asked the client to explain what had happened and whether the police officer actually observed him urinating, or the client admitted to doing so. This is because under Penal Code § 836(a)(1), an officer may not make an arrest for a misdemeanor unless he or she observes the violation, subject to dozens of exceptions. In this case, the officer may not have seen the urinating because our client was facing away from the street, but he admitted to the conduct.
The client explained that he had just been hired into his intended profession after completing his master’s degree at U.S.C., so having a misdemeanor on his criminal history may undermine his job security.
Greg then explained how such cases are generally handled at the Downey Superior Court. Greg recommended that the client attend ten Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) meetings even though the conduct was not related to drinking at a bar or restaurant, and give Greg proof of this attendance to take to the arraignment.
Greg explained that the Downey City Attorney often would reduce the charge to an infraction with a small fine, but as of January 1, 2021, judicial diversion was also available. Greg explained how judicial diversion permitted a judge, under Penal Code § 1001.95 and § 1001.96, to place a defendant on diversion according to certain terms and conditions for up to two years and if the defendant performed such requirements, the case would be dismissed under Penal Code § 1385, which meant it would be eligible for sealing thereafter.
The client then attended ten AA meetings through Zoom and Greg was provided the AA sign-in sheet our client used to document his attendance.
Greg then appeared in the Downey Superior Court for the arraignment. The Downey City Attorney indeed did offer to reduce the charge to an infraction with a small fine for our client ($100). Greg asked if the Downey City Attorney would oppose judicial diversion for this charge and, instead of saying yes or no, he proposed DA (District Attorney) diversion for our client.
The terms were that our client would earn a dismissal in 90 days if he performed eight hours of community service. Greg accepted.