Just before Thanksgiving, 2021, our client, age 18, was stopped just outside the Sephora store at the Westfield Century City mall. She was seen walking past the checkout area with various products she had not paid for worth approximately $300. The items were in her purse.
The Client told Sephora’s loss prevention officer that she accidentally walked out with the store property.
The client had no prior criminal history and was a freshman at U.C.L.A.
She was escorted back into the store and asked to empty her purse, which she did, revealing a facial crème product, eye liners and a bottle of perfume. The store called the Beverly Hill police, who came to the store and took our client to the Beverly Hills Police Department, where she was booked and released on her own recognizance after signing a promise to appear in the Beverly Hills Courthouse about four months later.
The client returned to the Century City Mall, found her car parked in the parking structure and returned to her student housing area, shaken up by the turn of events. Her parents lived overseas (and had never lived in the United States), so she was not able to aske them what would happen in court or what to do.
The client turned to the Internet and called Greg Hill & Associates. She spoke with Greg Hill and described what had happened asked what could be done to avoid having a criminal record.
Greg explained how shoplifting cases are generally handled at the Airport Courthouse and commented that he believed the case would be filed at the Airport Courthouse, not the Beverly Hills courthouse. He then explained how the Los Angeles City Attorney’s office prosecutes such cases and what the Neighborhood Justice Program (NJP) is, which the Los Angeles City Attorney’s office offers to some suspects. Greg also explained what an office hearing was, another pre-filing diversion program the Los Angeles City Attorney’s office often referred cases to for handling instead of filing.
Greg explained how prior clients had been offered this program and avoided a case being filed and how a year after the arrest, one could request that the judge order the police report and related documents sealed under Penal Code § 851.91 if no case is filed.
The client commented that Sephora did not present her with a monetary demand to pay loss prevention fees. Greg stated that this may be mailed to her shortly. Greg recommended that the Client not pay this fee unless the prosecution agreed to dismiss the case (if the case was filed and not referred to the Neighborhood Justice Program or an office hearing).
Greg then explained that, if hired, he would write the Los Angeles City Attorney’s office and recommend that the client’s case be referred to the NJP or set for an office hearing.
Greg recommended that the Client enroll in and complete an online shoplifting prevention course, such as through Logan Social Services, or if that was not available, through Third Millennium, Tom Wilson Counseling Services or the National Association of Shoplifting Prevention ASAP.
The client did so and gave Greg her certificate of completion of the Third Millennium program, which Greg enclosed with his letter to the Los Angeles City Attorney’s office requesting the NJP or an office hearing for the client.
About two weeks before the arraignment, after months of waiting, the client received a letter from the Los Angeles City Attorney’s Office advising her that she was eligible for the NJP and to contact an employee of their office, who they identified, to accept this referral of her case in lieu of a case filing. The client did so and was assigned an NJP hearing.
The hearing was held over Zoom due to COVID-19 concerns. Two women and a man asked our client about the incident and what she had learned from the experience. Our client explained what she learned from the Third Millennium course and what she otherwise thought about from the experience.
She said she had been consumed by this mistake for over three months, often unable to sleep and was ashamed of committing such an act of dishonesty.
The NJP members told her that they were satisfied with her explanation of events and how it affected her. They advised that they recommend no case be filed if she wrote a letter to other college students, delivered to the Los Angeles City Attorney’s Office, and attended a further theft prevention course lasting four hours.
The client was very happy with this resolution of her case.
For more information about shoplifting, the Neighborhood Justice Program and sealing an arrest, please click on the following articles: