In 2007, our client was 21 years old and stopped for speeding along the westbound 10 Freeway near the Valley Boulevard exit, which is remarkably close to the El Monte Superior Court.
When the CHP officer asked her for her driver’s license, proof of insurance and vehicle registration, she showed him her vehicle registration and proof of insurance, but sheepishly showed him a driver’s license which had expired about three months earlier.
The CHP officer then wrote our client a ticket for violation of Vehicle Code § 12500(a) (“Driving Without a Valid License) and Vehicle Code § 14601.1(a) (“Driving with an Expired License”) and then had her sign a promise to appear about two months later in the El Monte Superior Court.
Our client appeared as ordered and quickly resolved the case at the arraignment for a violation of both violations. Had she spoken with an experienced criminal defense attorney, she might have been able to save hundreds of dollars.
Our client, with the help of a public defender, agreed to three years of informal or summary probation and payment of a court fine of $300, plus penalties and assessments (total was $1,355.39), plus she had to pay $109.38 for her public defender.
The client paid nothing of the $1,464.77 she agreed to pay and after the due date passed in 2008, the judge assigned to her case revoked her probation and issued a $30,000 bench warrant for her.
The client was not in court to hear about this bench warrant being issued and the court clerk did not mail her a letter notifying her of this.
The bench warrant lingered for 13 years until early 2021 when her employer advised the now 34 year old client that the El Monte Superior Court had such a warrant outstanding for her. The client called the court and verified that there was such a bench warrant pending, as well as how much money she owed the court in fees.
The client next called Greg Hill & Associates and discussed her bench warrant and the outstanding fines and fees. She then retained Greg Hill & Associates to appear on her behalf and ask the judge to recall the bench warrant and if successful in such a request, then give the client another six months to pay the outstanding fines and fees.
As Greg Hill was driving to the El Monte Courthouse, he recalled how newly elected Los Angeles District Attorney George Gascon had issued several “Special Directives” for his deputies within the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office. The directives were issued the first day he was sworn into office, December 7, 2020.
The new special directives garnered a great deal of publicity – negative publicity – because they directed his deputy district attorneys to no longer allege gun enhancements, gang enhancements, prison prior enhancements and not oppose defense motions to “strike a strike” (a “Romero Motion”) for purposes of sentencing.
George Gascon’s Special Directive 20-07 dealing with guidance to his Los Angeles County District Attorneys handling misdemeanor cases was relevant to the client’s case from El Monte, which was within Los Angeles County. Special Directive 20-07 listed out about fifteen misdemeanor offenses that George Gascon did not want his prosecutors filing unless the defendant was subject to certain exceptions.
A violation of Vehicle Code § 14601.1(a) was listed as one of those offenses George Gascon directed his district attorneys not to file or continue prosecuting unless defendant had a prior conviction for violating this in the prior 24 months.
Consequently, when Greg appeared for the client in the El Monte Superior Court, he asked to first recall the bench warrant, which the judge granted. Then Greg asked the judge for permission to withdraw the client’s no contest plea and the DA did not opposed his motion. The judge then granted this motion and the case was dismissed under the new special directive.
This saved the client about $1,464 in court fees and fines, which the client was extremely happy with, as such a bench warrant alone was worrisome for her job security and the financial burden of almost $1,500 in court fines was overwhelming.
For more information about bench warrant issues, please click on the following articles: