Defendant not entitled to have convictions for access card forgery reduced to misdemeanors under Proposition 47. In 2014, defendant pleaded guilty to two felony counts of access card forgery (Pen. Code § 484f, subd. (a)) and other offenses. She later petitioned to have her forgery convictions reduced to misdemeanors under Proposition 47. The trial court denied relief, and defendant appealed. Held: Affirmed. Prior to the passage of Proposition 47, all forgery offenses were “wobblers,” meaning they could be punished as felonies or misdemeanors. Penal Code section 470, subdivision (d), the general forgery statute, lists over 50 different types of instruments that constitute forgery. Proposition 47 amended Penal Code section 473 to add a new subdivision (b), which provides that forgery offenses “relating to a check, bond, bank bill, note, cashier’s check, traveler’s check, or money order” where the value is $950 or less are misdemeanors. Applying the principle of statutory construction that, where exceptions to a general rule are specified by statute, other exceptions are not implied or presumed, the Court of Appeal concluded that only the forgery offense related to the seven specific instruments listed in section 473, subdivision (b) are now straight misdemeanors. In all other cases, forgery offenses are wobblers. Because the language of the statute is clear and unambiguous, the court need look no further to ascertain voter intent. However, even the ballot materials suggest that voters intended to limit Proposition 47’s reduced penalties for forgery to check-related offenses. The court distinguished People v. Romanowski (2017) 2 Cal.5th 903, which addressed theft of access card information rather than access card forgery, and People v. Gonzales (2017) 2 Cal.5th 858.
The denial of defendant’s petition for resentencing did not violate her equal protection rights. In equal protection claims involving alleged sentencing disparities, the question is whether there is a rational relationship between the disparity of treatment and some legitimate governmental purpose. Here, there is a rational basis for treating those convicted of forgery for use of one of the seven instruments listed in section 473, subdivision (b) differently from those convicted of forgery by instruments other than those listed (including access cards). Signing another person’s name to a check or money order is generally easier than making or altering a name or number on a plastic access card, and may reflect a less sophisticated and less culpable crime. Also, while check fraud generally causes a one-time financial loss, credit card fraud can result in ongoing loss and damage to the victim’s credit history. Thus, the electorate could rationally conclude that forging a check is not as serious as forging an access card. The court again distinguished Romanowski.
The full opinion is available on the court’s website here: http://www.courts.ca.gov/opinions/documents/A148919.PDF