Our client, an importer and distributor of paper products (toilet paper, paper towels, napkins and paper plates) from China, was charged in the East Los Angeles Superior Court with three misdemeanor violations of the California Business and Professions Code relating to labeling of paper products such as bath tissue and paper towels. The code sections at issue were Business & Professions Code § 12024 (wrongful sale or distribution of a commodity with less quantity than is represented on labels), § 12603 (improper packaging) and § 12611 (improper shipping or selling of a product).
Summary: Monterey Park client, mislabeled packaged goods, case filed in East Los Angeles Superior Court, two charges dismissed, third reduced to infraction and client had to pay investigative costs and court fine.
The alleged violations arose after inspectors from the Los Angeles County Department of Weights and Measures determined that several product labels on items imported by our client reported more quantity than was actually present.
The inspections took place in several locations to ensure the labeling problem was not an isolated incident involving just one item that could be traced back to the packaging plant in China and not the labeling that our client controlled. The inspections were in a retailer selling the product, as well as at a gigantic warehouse where the items were held after being imported from China.
Our client immediately fixed the labels, which was very expensive, but this seemed to have no effect on the District Attorney out of the East Los Angeles Superior Court, who filed the misdemeanor complaint.
East Los Angeles Superior Courthouse
The prosecutor was quite zealous in pursuing the complaint to a conviction, as she understood that this inaccurate labeling had probably resulted in lost business to honest businessmen selling the same product with accurate labels with more product and thus, higher costs, putting such honest manufacturers at a disadvantage to our client.
Our client then contacted our office, perplexed and not knowing what to do. Greg Hill of Greg Hill & Associates discussed the case with the client, whose English was a second language to Mandarin. Greg then explained that he hoped to resolve the case for an infraction and perhaps a fine for the investigation costs that Los Angeles County spent in finding our client’s product to be mislabeled.
Greg then appeared on the client’s behalf in the East Los Angeles Superior Court. No one from the client’s business had to come to court, be absent from work and lose more business.
Greg then negotiated a plea bargain with the prosecutor wherein two of the three charges were dismissed and the third charge was reduced from a misdemeanor to an infraction. The client was ordered, pursuant to the terms of the plea bargain, to pay well over $2,000 to the Los Angeles County Department of Weights and Measures for its investigative expenses, as well as a $600 fine to the Los Angeles Superior Court (plus penalties and assessments costs). The client was satisfied that it avoided a criminal record for a misdemeanor or felony, as pleading to a misdemeanor could be fatal to its business relations and future. A misdemeanor conviction also would affect its business license fees and its commercial insurance premiums.
The plea bargain further provided that in eight months, if our client pays off all the fines and the investigative costs – and stays free of any new charges – will have the case dismissed.
The client immediately paid off the two fines and in eight months, Greg reported back to court and had the case dismissed, which made the client quite happy.
This case was filed and resolved prior to 2015. On January 1, 2015, in Los Angeles County, a new diversion program called AB 2124 came into effect wherein a judge could offer diversion to low-level, first-time offenders over a prosecutor’s objection, as here. Had this case been filed after January 1, 2015, our office would have filed a motion for imposition of judicial diversion under Penal Code §§ 1001.94 to 1001.98, which is where Assembly Bill (AB) 2124 was put into legislation. Such a motion would have been a cleaner, easier way to ensure the ultimate dismissal of the case. This program ended on January 1, 2018, but many prosecutors continue to offer a variant of this program under DA diversion.
For more information about the issues in this case summary, click on the following articles:
- What Is The Difference Between a Misdemeanor and an Infraction?
- Expungement of an Infraction?
- What Is a Motion for Civil Compromise?