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Special Directive 20-07: Changes to Misdemeanor Charges

Another one of newly elected LA District Attorney George Gascon’s special directives, 20-07 deals with misdemeanor charges and how they are handled within LA county. This is one of the largest changes to happen among all the new special directives.

Special Directive 20-07 specifies a number of misdemeanor charges that are now to be dismissed and may not be charged by county law enforcement. However, it does describe circumstances under which listed misdemeanors may still be charged. Listed misdemeanors include, but are not limited to:

  • Trespass
  • Disturbing the Peace
  • Criminal Threats
  • Loitering (and Loitering for Prostitution)
  • Resisting Arrest

While that is the summary of the directive, there is much more detail to be explained. There are still many circumstances where you may still be charged with misdemeanors.

Special Directive 20-07 Explained

The directive lists a total of 13 misdemeanors which are not to be charged by county law enforcement, such as the Sheriff’s office. However, this directive only applies to arrests by country law enforcement, and as such you can still be charged with all misdemeanors if arrested by the LAPD within LA city limits.

The listed misdemeanors are:

  • Trespass (Penal Code §602)
    • Unless: you have repeat trespass offenses within two years;
    • There was a verifiable, immediate safety risk;
    • Or, there was no indication of substance abuse, mental illness, or homelessness
  • Disturbing the Peace (Penal Code §415)
    • Unless: you have repeat offenses of this type this within two years;
    • Or, there is no evidence of substance abuse or mental illness
  • Driving Without a Valid License (Vehicle Code §12500)
    • Unless: you have repeat offenses of this type within two years
  • Driving on a Suspended License (Vehicle Code §14601.1))
    • Unless: you have repeat offenses of this type within two years
  • Criminal Threats (Penal Code §422)
    • Unless: the offense is related to domestic abuse or a hate crime;
    • You have three offenses of this type within two years;
    • There is a documented history of threats towards the victim;
    • You were in possession of a weapon capable of causing injury or death;
    • Or, there was no indication of substance abuse or mental illness
  • Drug and Paraphernalia Possession (Health and Safety Code §11350, 11357, 11364, 11377)
  • Minor in Possession of Alcohol (Business and Professions §25662)
  • Drinking in Public (LA County Municipal Code §13.18.010)
  • Under the Influence of a Controlled Substance (Health and Safety Code §11550)
  • Public Intoxication (Penal Code §647)
  • Loitering (Penal Code §647)
    • Unless: you have repeat offenses of this type within two years
  • Loitering to Commit Prostitution (Penal Code §653.22)
  • Resisting Arrest (Penal Code §148)
    • Unless: you have repeat offenses of this type within two years;
    • There was physical force used against an officer of the peace;
    • Or, the charge is filed in relation to another offense not listed

So long as none of the exceptions are met, you will not be charged with a misdemeanor. It’s important to reiterate that you can still be charged with the above misdemeanors, and any other, by the city attorney’s office if arrested by the LAPD within LA city limits.

What About Other Misdemeanor Charges?

In addition to those explicitly listed in the document, the directive also specifies that the Deputy District Attorneys may exercise their own discretion regarding charges not on the list in order to follow the “spirit” of the policy. They are also allowed to seek approval to charge a listed misdemeanor if they believe it is necessary.

In essence, this means that Deputy District Attorneys can:

  • Choose not to charge any misdemeanor should they believe that decision aligns with the purpose of the directive, and
  • Can also seek approval from their supervisor to charge a listed misdemeanor anyway if they believe there is a “identifiable, continuing threat” to another person (or any other circumstance of that severity)

The decline of a misdemeanor charge can occur at the pre-arraignment, post-arraignment but pre-plea, and post-arraignment, post-plea diversion stages of trial.

Diversion Program Changes

In addition, the directive lays out a new addition to the diversion options listed under Penal Code §1101.36/.80/.83/.95.

It specifies that a pre-plea diversion is to be “presumptively granted” for any other misdemeanor that is not listed explicitly within the directive, but that decision may be changed based on:

  • Any or all convictions of offenses of equal or greater severity within the last two years
  • Any documented history of threats towards the victim
  • Very clear evidence of an “identifiable” ongoing threat to another individual (or other circumstance of equal severity)

However, it also specifies that even if a misdemeanor case cannot be diverted or dismissed, any plea offer that is given must:

  • Not require both jail time and community service;
  • Not require them to complete more than 15 days of community service;
  • And, not require a status registration unless mandated by statute.

The plea offer can also not be increased if the defendant wants to pursue a jury trial or any pretrial motions.

Major Changes to Fines and Fees Within 20-07

The last changes the directive makes are related to how and when fines or fees are to be given.

Essentially, any Deputy District Attorney must:

  • Assume that someone is unable to pay fines or fees if:
    • They are represented by a public defender or alternate public defender, Bar Panel, or other free legal service;
    • They are receiving any sort of government benefit which is based off of their income;
    • They are homeless;
    • Or, if they can make it clear through verifiable evidence that they are unable to pay fines.
  • Support without objection any request to waive fines or fees for any poor individuals
  • Not argue that:
    • Failure to pay any fine or fee is violation of probation if they are poor;
    • That the probation should be extended because of failure to pay;
    • Or, that they should be jailed or be given any additional punishment for being unable to pay.

LA D.A. Special Directive 20-07

This directive makes many broad changes to misdemeanor charges, how the diversion program works within LA county, and how fines and fees are to be handled during sentencing. However, you may still be charged with a misdemeanor and face fines and/or other normal penalties if you are arrested by the LAPD within LA city limits.

The full directive can be read here.

If you are currently facing any criminal charge, you should contact us immediately at 3223-655-5700 or right here online for a free consultation to discuss your case. William Kroger is a trusted, proven, and experienced LA criminal defense attorney.

With all of the changes occurring with these special directives, he and the rest of our legal team here represent your best chance for having your charges reduced or dropped entirely.

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