Our client, age 37, was stopped just outside the exit doors to Sephora in the Westfield Century City Mall. She had about $400 of makeup, face creams and other products in her purse.
When asked why she took such items without paying for them, she explained that she intended to go to a nearby restroom because Sephora did not have a restroom in its store, and then return to pay for the items. Loss prevention had heard such an explanation several times before.
The Los Angeles Police Department, West Division, was called to the store, but our client was not arrested. Instead, she was asked to sign a promise to appear in the Los Angeles Superior Court, Airport Courthouse on La Cienega in about four months. Our client signed the promise to appear.
For the next two and a half months, our client did nothing. She was a registered pharmacist and quite busy.
However, about six weeks before her arraignment, at about 5:30 p.m. on a Friday afternoon, she and her father called Greg Hill & Associates. Greg Hill answered and then then spoke with the two, who explained what had happened. The initial phone call lasted over an hour. The client’s father was quite involved in his daughter’s life and asked most of the questions and explained to Greg that it was especially important that if he hired Greg Hill & Associates, that the case be handled so that his daughter have no record of the crime whatsoever.
The client’s father explained, further, that his daughter paid the civil demand forwarded to her by Sephora’s loss prevention attorney. The father believed such a payment would bar any criminal case.
Greg explained that payment of such a civil demand would not have any effect on the prosecution decision whether to file a criminal case. Moreover, Greg candidly advised the client’s father that it may be impossible to prevent a criminal record being established for the client, but he would immediately write the Los Angeles City Attorney’s office, who handled such misdemeanor cases, to request an office hearing or the Neighborhood Justice Program as pre-filing diversion programs.
Greg recommended that the client enroll in and take an online theft prevention class offered by Logan Social Services, Third Millennium, Tom Wilson Counseling or the National Association for Shoplifting Prevention and then to forward that to our office when she received the certificate of completion.
The client’s father and the client had one more hour long phone conversation with Greg about expungement, sealing a record and having the charge reduced to an infraction.
About three weeks later, the client did retain Greg Hill & Associates. Greg then wrote the Los Angeles City Attorney’s Office, enclosing the client’s pharmacist license from the State of California and her proof of completion of the Third Millennium theft prevention course.
One day after the letter was sent, our client advised Greg Hill that she had received a letter from the Los Angeles City Attorney’s Office offering her the Neighborhood Justice Program (NJP) to resolve her case. Greg Hill’s letter had not caused this offer, in other words, but it was entirely based on our client’s minor crime and her lack of any prior criminal history.
The client’s father then e-mailed Greg the letter on a Saturday night and demanded a phone conversation immediately. Greg responded that evening, explaining that the NJP was a good was to prevent a filing and any criminal record for his daughter. Greg cautioned, however, that it could be embarrassing for his daughter to have to speak to six members of the community and explain her crime and her regret about doing so.
Greg further explained his experiences attending such meetings with his former clients and described the process as painful and uncomfortable, but worth it in avoiding a criminal record.
While an office hearing was not offered, the client’s father asked Greg to request an office hearing instead. Greg explained that this was not an option, but the client’s father insisted upon Greg requesting this over NJP.
The client, meanwhile, remained silent and deferred to her father. The father was concerned that a member of the NJP panel might be Persian and recognize his daughter, “which would be very bad for her because she plans on getting married soon.” Greg responded that a defendant cannot agree to NJP with conditions about who can and cannot be on the volunteer panel hearing the case as part of NJP.
On the day the NJP offer was to expire, Greg called the Los Angeles City Attorney in charge of the program and requested a two-week extension for his client to respond, which the attorney granted. Greg then asked about how NJP was conducted with the COVID-19 pandemic still being a factor and the attorney explained that NJP was conducted through Zoom and that if our client were to have to take a theft-prevention course as part of NJP, it would also be through Zoom.
Greg also asked the Los Angeles City Attorney if the case could be resolved via an office hearing and the L.A. City Attorney said no, that this particular case was not being offered an office hearing.
The client then did accept the offer of NJP and attended the NJP Zoom call with Greg. The client then completed the terms of NJP, which involved attending a second theft prevention class and writing a short essay about what she learned from the experience. She submitted this letter and no case was filed.
For more information about shoplifting, the Neighborhood Justice Program and the new judicial diversion law starting in 2021, please click on the following articles: