In March of 2022, our office received a phone call from a woman in Arizona who explained that she could not get an Arizona driver’s license because of a bench warrant from 2003 issued for her from the Compton Courthouse. The California DMV, under Penal Code § 40509(a), had put a hold on her California driver’s license because of the bench warrant which had to be lifted for her to be issued an Arizona driver’s license.
The woman explained that the bench warrant arose over a fare evasion ticket (Penal Code § 640(c)(1)), an infraction, issued to her when she was riding a train with a fare paid to the wrong station. She went to the Compton Courthouse for the ticket on the date for the arraignment that was written on the ticket, but no case was filed.
A case was filed, however, about a month later and she never received a letter advising her of the new date for the arraignment. When she did not appear, a bench warrant was issued.
This was frustrating for the client because she had later gone to prison in California in 2008 for sixteen months (of a three year sentence) and prior to being released, had worked with the prison to file a Penal Code § 1381 demand for trial for each outstanding ticket she had at that time.
As the reader may know, if one is in jail or prison for more than 90 days, Vehicle Code § 41500 allows a judge to discharge certain citations for infractions while one is in prison if one demands trial on each one under Penal Code § 1381 and the person is not brought to court for such citations within 90 days.
The client believed all her infractions and other Vehicle Code violations eligible under § 41500 had been dismissed prior to her being released from prison. This belief was apparently wrong, as she learned in 2022.
Greg then explained that he could go to the Compton Courthouse and have the bench warrant lifted and then pay the ticket on the infraction.
Greg estimated that the ticket would be $80, plus penalties and assessments, plus there would be $250 fine for the failure to appear (FTA), plus there would be a $15 bench warrant recall fee, so the total owed would probably be close to $900.
However, Greg explained that he would ask for the fees to be reduced under Dueñas (People v. Dueñas (2d App. Dist., 2019) 30 Cal. App. 5th 1157) based on the client’s inability to pay all the fines, but it would be up to the judge to decide how much the fees would be reduced to. Greg told the client that he thought he could have the $900 in fee reduced to $350, so he asked for $350 to pay the fines and fees, plus a fee for his time.
Greg also explained that he would make an oral motion nun pro tunc (Latin for “turn back time”) for the judge to vacate all fees because the client did file a Penal Code § 1381 demand in 2009 and the fees were not vacated under Vehicle Code § 41500. Greg asked the client for any copies of the 1381 demand she had or even just documentation that she went to prison in California.
The client then retained Greg Hill & Associates and Greg appeared on the client’s behalf in the Compton Superior Court to have the bench warrant recalled. The file was assigned to the traffic court commissioner, whose uncle Greg coincidentally knows through running in the local community. The commissioner was aware that Greg and her uncle were good friends.
The commissioner recalled the bench warrant and then, as Greg made a motion to reduce the fines under Dueñas, supra, reduced the court fines for the fare ticket to $16 with no penalties and assessments and the failure to appear to $16, too, with no penalties or assessments.
Greg did not receive any documentation from the client to substantiate her 2009 claim of filing a Penal Code § 1381 for discharge of her ticket under Vehicle Code § 41500, so Greg did not make an oral motion nun pro tunc for further reducing the fees to zero. Moreover, it would certainly appear ungrateful for the significant reduction already made.
Greg then thanked the commissioner and paid the $32. Greg also returned $300 to the client because she had paid $350 for the $900 in fines for the ticket and Greg had been lucky enough to reduce the fines even below the $350 he optimistically estimated he could reduce the fines. The client was extremely happy to have the bench warrant lifted and a $300 check from Greg Hill & Associates.
For more information about bench warrant issues, please click on the following articles: