In 2006, when our client was just 18, she picked up four tickets for solicitation of prostitution in several areas in Orange County. All four were near Disneyland, off Beach Boulevard, over about a six-month period. She never showed up for court and after each arraignment when she did not appear, the judge issued a bench warrant.
As the reader of this summary may know, Beach Boulevard and the side streets off it, has been a long-time “blade” for prostitution, mostly involving tourists visiting Disneyland but seeking another kind of less wholesome form of entertainment.
Fast forward fifteen years to 2021 and our client was living in Arizona, married and with two young children, ages one and three. She had ambitions of becoming a registered nurse, but having outstanding bench warrants meant she could not pass a fingerprint and background test that would reveal the outstanding bench warrants. Such revelations would mean she could not participate in clinical studies, as part of her training to become a nurse, in a hospital. In other words, to even complete the curriculum towards becoming a nurse, she needed to have the bench warrants recalled and the underlying cases resolved.
During early 2021, the COVID-19 pandemic was peaking, so courts were making every effort to minimize the number of people allowed into court. Judges were also aware of a pending wave of “make up crimes” (i.e., DUI’s, domestic violence, shoplifting, robberies) that were anticipated once the pandemic eased and people could get back to their normal lives and the normal stress of life returned. Moreover, in many pending cases, defendants did not come to court because they assumed the courts were closed and so there was a mounting number of bench warrants.
So when our client called us and explained how she had four bench warrants from fifteen years ago for solicitation of prostitution (Penal Code § 647(b)) out of the Westminster court, but she lived in another state, Greg explained that resolving the cases may be easier than she might think.
It merits mention that in several of the cases, our client was also cited for violation of Penal Code § 148.9 for giving false information to a police officer. Also, in one of the cases, she was cited for violation of Penal Code § 653.22, loitering for purposes of prostitution, not solicitation of prostitution.
Greg explained how the COVID-19 pandemic had allowed our office to resolve many cases for truly remarkable resolutions, not due to any legal skill on our part, but just due to lucky timing with the pandemic and the prosecution’s need to resolve cases with a sense of urgency.
In the clients’ cases, since she never appeared in court, a Motion to Dismiss Due to Deprivation of One’s Speedy Trial Rights under the Sixth Amendment and Serna v. Superior Court (1985) 40 Cal. 3d 329 was an obvious first option. Greg warned, however, that Orange County often was diligent in trying to find defendant with bench warrants and would often produce documentation of their efforts, defeating such a motion. It was often far easier to win such a motion in Los Angeles County, in comparison.
The client then retained Greg Hill & Associates after Greg commented he believed the bench warrants could be recalled without the client having to come to California to appear in court. Once the bench warrants were recalled, Greg predicted the cases would resolve for infractions for disturbing the peace, perhaps after the client performed some community service (i.e., 40 hours for each case) in Arizona and attended an online class on preventing prostitution, or even, if we were lucky, outright dismissal if the client made some type of donation, i.e., to a fallen officer morale, welfare and recreation (MWR) fund.
Our office therefore made a reservation with the Westminster courthouse to have all four bench warrants recalled from 2006 and about a week later, the criminal clerk’s office at the courthouse notified us of a date to appear for recall of the bench warrants.
Greg then appeared as ordered by the court without the client and requested that the judge recall each of the four bench warrants. The judge did so without any hesitation or questions asking where our client was or any other gratuitous comments.
Next came the more difficult part: dealing with the Orange County District Attorney’s Office in resolving the cases. First of all, the young District Attorney assigned to the misdemeanor arraignment court that Greg spoke with did not even know what a Serna motion was and had to call his supervisor to ask about this.
The supervisor told the young DA to continue the arraignment to give their office time to assemble a “Serna packet” for each case, which would involve gathering up documentation of any efforts to find our client to show due diligence in prosecuting the case.
Accordingly, the arraignment was continued for another two months. When Greg came back two months later to court, the DA asked for another two months for work on the case. Greg agreed. Two months later, Greg returned and the DA offered to dismiss all four cases if the client made a $110 contribution to a Victim Witness Restitution Fund, which our client happily did.
For more information about bench warrant recalls, Serna motions and prostitution, please click on the following articles: