By Kristin Trent
WOODLAND, CA – Deputy Public Defender Katie De Anda and Conflict Counsel Jim Granucci argued in Yolo County Superior Court last week the judge should reduce shoplifting charges from felonies to misdemeanors against two young people who were acting out of survival.
The accused woman had financial need after losing her job, while the accused man is a first time offender with no previous encounters with law enforcement, the lawyers said.
The judge agreed.
The preliminary hearing June 13 was held more than 1.5 years after the incident occurred. The accused, who were just 18 and 19 at the time of the alleged theft of three stores in Davis and Woodland, were being held on one count of organized retail theft and three counts of conspiracy to commit a felony.
DPD De Anda argued the felony charge of conspiracy to commit a misdemeanor PC § 490.4(a)(1) for organized retail theft on two or more occasions with a value exceeding $950 against her client should be reduced to a misdemeanor because provided estimates of stolen items totaled only $850.
According to De Anda’s statement, the only footage of the accused man at the Woodland store is of him entering the store and leaving with a full bag, but with no testimony from officers or witnesses that they see either of the accused shoplift.
“(W)hile a prosecutor has to keep in mind that they have a duty of zealous advocacy, they have to use their discretion when they are charging these, and I don’t believe that the conduct as relates in count two or three, even if you found a holding order, would rise to the level of felony conduct for (my client),” PD De Anda said.
It was inconclusive whether the alleged stolen items found in the accused man’s car matched provided store inventory lists, said the defense.
Officer statements describe the accused as young, remorseful, scared, cooperative, and answering all questions.
The accused man, who scored high on his military exam and is a first time offender, has been barred from his aspirations to join the military because of the pending court case, according to De Anda.
The accused woman, who grew up in Oakland, experienced recurring issues with her father growing up after the loss of her mother. Working two jobs at the beginning of 2021 and facing housing instability, she made bad choices as a result of dealing with financial insecurity and lacked guidance or a role model in her life, according to Granucci.
“She didn’t do this out of greed or getting money for drugs, to go out and party with friends, or to buy clothing. She did this to survive,” Granucci said.
Granucci said her compliance with law enforcement is now being held against his client after being denied access to the Restorative Justice Partnership (RJP), which resolves offenses outside the traditional courtroom, because of the felony charges.
“We commonly give RJP to convicted felons, to people with strikes, to people charged with crimes of violence,” Granucci said.
Judge Sonia Cortés ruled to reduce the felony charges against both the accused to misdemeanors as a result of the price estimates not exceeding $950 as stipulated in Penal Code § 490.4(a)(1).
She said this decision was informed by both parties’ compliance and cooperation, the young man’s lack of criminal history, the young woman’s lack of an adult criminal record, and the survival reasons revolving around the offense.
“(The accused woman) did indicate these acts were committed for survival reasons, whether that in of itself is an excuse, I am not indicating that it is but it is something that the court should consider with regards to the circumstances of the offense,” said Cortés.