In a poor neighborhood of Los Angeles, the lives of seven young characters become entwined when Dewain, a former gang leader, is arrested by a policeman (Mike) for shoplifting two bottles of beer. He had been hurrying home to see his girlfriend Consuelo, an undocumented political refugee from El Salvador who is the mother of his baby. Dewain faces a harsh mandatory sentence if convicted of this petty crime, his third offense. Mike’s arrest of Dewain is captured on videotape for a local TV station program hosted by Tiffany, an anchorwoman. Tiffany is attracted to Mike, but her interest is not reciprocated. Meanwhile, David, a charismatic local preacher, is romancing Leila, a community activist. Rick, the public defender assigned to Dewain’s case, makes an impassioned plea in court for releasing Dewain. An earthquake hits the city, and the crisis causes much soul-searching. David realizes he is truly in love with Leila; Mike acknowledges that he is gay; Tiffany turns her attention toward Rick, who was dazzled by her at the trial; and Consuelo tries to convince Dewain to run away with her to El Salvador, but he decides to stay.