Tuesday, October 30, 2018
Court of Appeal:
No Felony Conviction for Man Whose Act Fit More Specific Misdemeanor
By a MetNews Staff Writer
A man’s felony conviction for false personation was reversed yesterday by the Sixth District Court of Appeal because the signing of another person’s name to a traffic ticket, claiming to be that person, matched a more specific misdemeanor statute.
Justice Eugene M. Premo wrote the opinion. The case is People v. Henry, 2018 S.O.S. 5187.
The defendant, Angelo A. Henry, was convicted by a jury of violating Penal Code §529(a)(3), the false personation statute. He contended on appeal that the rule articulated in the 1954 state Supreme Court opinion in In re Williamson—that a prosecution is barred under a general statute where the conduct is covered by a specific statute—was violated.
He argued that he should have been prosecuted for Vehicle Code §40504(b), which prohibits the signing of a false or fictitious name on a promise to appear for a traffic citation, because it is a more specific statute.
People v. Murphy
Premo relied on the 2011 opinion in People v. Murphy in reversing the conviction. There, Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye wrote that under Williamson, “[i]n effect, the special statute is interpreted as creating an exception to the general statute for conduct that otherwise could be prosecuted under either statute.”
She spelled out:
“Absent some indication of legislative intent to the contrary, the Williamson rule applies when (1) ‘each element of the general statute corresponds to an element on the face of the special statute’ or (2) when ‘it appears from the statutory context that a violation of the special statute will necessarily or commonly result in a violation of the general statute.’ [Citation.] In its clearest application, the rule is triggered when a violation of a provision of the special statute would inevitably constitute a violation of the general statute.”
In the 1999 case of People v. Chardon, the Sixth District had held that §40504(b) is not a special statute creating an exception to Penal Code §529. Premo said:
“Although Murphy did not expressly overrule Chardon, Chardon’s reasoning cannot stand in light of Murphy.”
“We can discern no reason why the Williamson rule should not apply to the statutes at issue here. We have reviewed the legislative history of Vehicle Code section 40504, subdivision (b), and we have found no indication that the Legislature intended otherwise.”
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