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Criminal Defense Attorneys

West Covina, Shoplifting at Costco, Informal Diversion

In late January 2022, our clients, a man, age 52, and his girlfriend of fifteen years, a woman age 45, were stopped by loss prevention officers at the Azusa Costco on suspicion of shoplifting.  It was about two in the afternoon and a Sunday.

Loss prevention officers told our clients that they had a videotape of the man taking two speakers out of a Sonos speaker box and placing the speakers in his girlfriend’s purse, as well as a large container of Makuta vitamins for sale and Febreze air fresheners for sale.  The woman opened the purse to help her boyfriend place the items in her purse.  Our male client then took the empty box to another place in the store and left it there.

The two then continued shopping and our female client went through the self-checkout area without unloading the items in her purse to pay for them.  The speakers were on sale for $369.99, the vitamins for $29.99 and the air fresheners for $8.99, or a total of $408.97 before tax.

Our male client was in the bathroom as his girlfriend went through the self-checkout area, where she did pay for a box of sodas.  After doing this, she waited for our male client just outside the restrooms to then walk out of the store with him.

The couple only got a few feet outside the store before loss prevention stopped the two.

This was not the first brush with the law for our male client.  He had a prior conviction for possession of an illegal weapon (num chucks), a violation of Penal Code § 12020(a), from 1991 when he was just 21, as well as a conviction for trespass (Penal Code § 602(k)) in 2004 after being originally arrested and charged with burglary.  

Our female client had no prior criminal history.

After being stopped by loss prevention, the two were handcuffed and taken to a back office at the Costco to wait for the Azusa Police Department, who arrived and took the two to the police department for booking.  

Before the two were released from the police station, they signed a promise to appear in the West Covina Courthouse in about five months, which was a longer-than-normal delay.

The couple immediately called Greg Hill & Associates.  The two repeatedly asked Greg if he believed the prosecutors would not file because “it was not stealing much” and “it was not that big a deal.”

Greg answered that in his experience, the prosecution would file a case because the amount stolen not really that small.  After all, the value of the items was over $400.

The couple then asked Greg, “assuming the DA files a case,” what would happen.  Greg explained that there was a new program since January 1, 2021, called “judicial diversion” which permitted a judge to suspend proceedings and order the defendant (or defendants) to complete certain requirements, i.e., attend an anti-theft class, perform community service and stay away from the location of the crime.  If defendant successfully completed the requirements and obeyed all laws during the time when proceedings were suspended, the judge could then order the case dismissed (“defendants earned a dismissal”).  Greg recommended that each client complete an online theft-prevention course through Third Millennium, an online provider that other courts had specifically required.

Greg also explained how the District Attorney’s office also may offer a form of formal or informal diversion similar to judicial diversion wherein our client would be required to complete certain requirements to “earn a dismissal” after a year or even six months.  Greg explained the difference between formal and informal diversion and why entering a “no contest” or “guilty” plea as part of formal diversion was less preferable than being offered informal diversion, wherein defendant is not required to enter a “no contest” or “guilty” plea first.

The client hired Greg Hill & Associates and thereafter enrolled in and completed the Third Millennium online shoplifting prevention course.

Greg and the clients then attended the arraignment, as which time the prosecutor offered informal diversion with only eight hours of community service required and credit for the online course, with six months to wait before a dismissal.  Our clients agreed to this offer.

Greg later explained how once the case was dismissed, and a year had passed from the date of the arrest, each client would have the right to request that the record of the arrest, the police report and the court file be sealed under Penal Code § 851.91, which meant the record of these entries in each client’s California Department of Justice criminal history would be erased, except for purposes of being visible to law enforcement if either one day applied for employment as a police officers.  

The clients were both happy with informal diversion and eager to one day have their records related to this arrest and case filing sealed.

For more information about the issues in this case, please click on the following articles:
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"Thank you so much for putting so much effort in this case. We really appreciate it and we are happy that all turned out well." S.A., Torrance
"Greg Hill did an outstanding job on every level. He was efficient, thorough, knowledgeable, courteous, responsive & brilliant. He welcomed my input and my concerns. . . from the first conversation to the last - I always felt 'it mattered' to him." S.C., Rolling Hills Estates
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