The courts have financial incentive to avoid dealing with trivial Los Angeles petty theft cases.
Here’s a bold illustration why.
Up in Monterey, 75-year-old Lilia Estoesta just got convicted of a single petty theft charge for stealing $60 worth of jewelry. The cost of the trial – just for the translator! – exceeded $2,000.
Estoesta pled guilty to pilfering jewelry from a JC Penny Store at a Salinas mall, prior to Christmas. She said that she wanted presents for her grandkids for the holidays.
Estoesta is a Filipino woman who speaks a language called Ilocano – so the court had to hire a special translator, plus reimburse that translator for lodging and mileage. All told, just the translator’s fees tallied at $2,018. Estoesta’s attorney argued that the court would not have had to spend that money (and waste time) had they agreed to come to a plea agreement. After all, the woman had no criminal record.
A local district attorney, James Perry, counter-argued that “Justice requires equal protection of the law and mandates that we treat similarly situated defendants equally.” Perry said that court would have let Estoesta off with community service without probation, if she agreed to a guilty plea on a misdemeanor. But her defense wanted to plea the charges down to a ticket, and a settlement could not be arranged prior to the trial.
Perry defended the court’s actions: “The Constitution does not take costs into consideration.”
The Superior Court Judge, Alert Maldonato, imposed no punishment on the 75-year-old, but Estoesta needs to pay all court-mandated fees.
The big takeaway here – if you or someone you care about faces a Southern California petty theft charge – is that the court system is pretty bureaucratic. That can be both good and bad news for your case. You need to understand the system and play within its rules and constraints.
If you’ve never been charged before, you probably don’t know what those rules are. Thus, you could easily make mistakes that could drag your situation out or lead to needless additional punishments and stress, particularly if your L.A. petty theft charge is connected with other crimes, like grand theft, robbery, hit and run, etc. The Los Angeles theft defense team at the Kraut Law Group is ready and able to help you prepare your defense and make smart, sensible choices going forward.