Houman Fakhimi

Low-Level Crimes Downgraded to Infractions in Los Angeles

A number of low-level crimes in Los Angeles are no longer going to be treated as such.

Westminster Criminal Defense Lawyer Houman Fakhimi understands that per an internal memo sent out by command staff at the Los Angeles Police Department, more than 90 crimes are now going to be treated as infractions, as opposed to misdemeanors.

What this means is that while you might still face sanctions - most likely some type of a fine - you won't be arrested. You won't be taken to jail and booked. The offense isn't going to appear on your permanent record with the U.S. Department of Justice as a criminal offense. They also will no longer figure into the agency's crime statistics, which only focus on keeping track of felonies and misdemeanors.

The shift is a response to an instruction sent by the city attorney's office, which seeks to create a system that is more efficient and will ultimately save taxpayers money.

The city attorney's office had noted that for the most part, these were crimes that were typically downgraded to infraction-status anyway. This just eliminates the process of having to have the case heard before a court. Rather than having the prosecutor approve a downgraded offense, the police officer will write it up as a simple infraction.

While we tend to think of misdemeanors as minor crimes, they still can carry a maximum penalty of up to year in jail. Eliminating that possibility for a number of infractions is going to be a major relief not only for offenders, but also taxpayers, who will no longer be tapped to pay the bill.

We're not talking about crimes like robbery or rape or murder. Generally, these are going to be quality of life crimes, and they will include things like:

  • Driving without a license;
  • Attempting to purchase alcohol with a fake ID;
  • Camping on the beach;
  • Drinking in public;
  • Buying or possessing alcohol as a minor;
  • Gambling;
  • Trespassing;
  • Defecating in public.

Similar changes have been made in other cities, such as San Diego and Sacramento.

It's still possible that an officer could write up one of these offenses as a misdemeanor, per state law. However, he or she would have to write up an extensive narrative explaining the reasoning behind it.

News of this change comes amid growing pressure to reduce California's ballooning prison population. Gov. Jerry Brown recently announced he was planning to file a plan with the court, outlining how he intended to seek such reductions. The state has a deadline of Dec. 31. Most likely, many of those will be elderly inmates and others who would have been scheduled for release at some point in the near future anyway or who have earned "good-time" credits.

A recent report by FBI's Uniform Crime Report reveals that the arrest rate in California dropped slightly over the last year, from a rate of 4,288 per 100,000 people to 4,165 per 100,000 people - a drop of about 3 percent. For juveniles, the arrest rate decreased by 18 percent.

Part of this has to also do with the fact that marijuana possession charges statewide have been reduced from misdemeanor offenses down to infractions.

Contact Houman Fakhimi trial attorney at (714) 705-6701 as soon as possible if you are arrested in Westminster.

Additional Resources

LA Downgrades Low-Level Offenses to Infractions, Aug. 9, 2013, By Mekahlo Medina, NBC4 News Los Angeles.