Our client, age 29, lived in Sherman Oaks. She and her friend, amid the COVID 19 pandemic, decided to visit her friend’s old neighborhood and possibly have coffee at her favorite coffee shop, if it were open.
Our client and her friend then made the long drive from the west Valley area to Orange County. By the time the two got off the 405 Freeway and found a place to park a few blocks from the coffee shop, our client (with a yet-to-be-diagnosed bladder condition) needed to urinate. The client was concerned about using a public restroom due to the risk of being infected with COVID-19, so she instead decided to urinate on parkland, behind a utility box so no one could see. It was about 4:00 p.m. in the afternoon.
Our client’s friend agreed to act as a “lookout” while our client did her business. The friend stood still, pretending to look at her cell phone, while looking up every few seconds. Just as our client’s luck would have it, a passing Seal Beach Police Officer noticed our client’s friend standing still, while looking at her cell phone and looking up every few seconds.
The police recognized this behavior as acting like a lookout, so the police became suspicious and stopped to investigate.
As they observed the friend pretending to look at her cell phone, police saw our client urinating behind the utility box and approached her to cite her. They did so, issuing her a ticket for violation of Penal Code § 372, public nuisance. The ticket stated it was a misdemeanor and our client signed a promise to appear about three months later in the Westminster Courthouse.
The police report stated our client accidentally dropped her facemask (for COVID-19) in her urine on the ground, causing her to cuss at herself.
About four weeks later, the client called Greg Hill & Associates and spoke with Greg. She described what had happened and she had no prior convictions. She asked Greg how the case would proceed and if she would go to jail.
Greg explained how such cases have been handled over the years in the Westminster Courthouse. Greg explained that most were issued in the late night / early morning hours when someone was seen urinating outside a bar or restaurant after drinking too much in the bar. Consequently, the prosecutors often resolved the case by allowing the misdemeanor to be reduced to an infraction for disturbing the peace if the client attended ten Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) classes and, sometimes, performed some community service.
Greg then explained for the client what the difference was between an infraction and a misdemeanor.
Greg and the client also discussed how the prosecutor could resolve the case informally before filing the case through an office hearing because this offense was a first-time offense for our client and was, in part, related to COVID-19 insofar as our client did not feel comfortable using a public restroom, almost like a necessity or duress defense.
Greg therefore wrote a letter to the Westminster District Attorney’s office several weeks before the arraignment, explaining that our client found herself cited for public urination because she chose to follow public health guidelines that advised against using public restrooms to limit the spread of COVID-19 and avoid contact with the virus. We explained that our client nonetheless accepted responsibility for her conduct and was agreeable to attending ten or even twenty AA meetings, even though alcohol abuse played no role in this offense.
The letter also showed that our client was employed (though a heavily redacted pay stub) and reminded the DA’s office that our client had no prior criminal history.
The Westminster District Attorney’s Office did not respond to our letter, so Greg appeared on the client’s behalf for the arraignment while our client remained at work.
After a brief discussion of the police report and COVID-19 with Greg, the handling District Attorney for the case offered to dismiss the complaint if our client attended ten AA meetings, which our client happily did and Greg returned to court three months later with such proof.
Our client was happy to have the case dismissed.
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