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Name: People v. Garcia
Case #: C043590
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 3 DCA
Opinion Date: 03/26/2004
Subsequent History: 6/16/04 review granted: S124090

Appellant was exonerated in administrative proceedings conducted by the State Department of Social Services to determine whether she had wrongfully received welfare benefits for a period of time her sons were absent from her home. While the administrative proceedings were pending, criminal charges were filed alleging welfare fraud and perjury. After the administrative decision was rendered, appellant moved to dismiss the criminal charges on collateral estoppel grounds. The motion was denied, and appellant was convicted. On appeal, appellant argued that the trial court erred in failing to follow People v. Sims (1982) which held that collateral estoppel bars the state from prosecuting a person for welfare fraud who has been exonerated in administrative proceedings. The appellate court agreed and reversed. Each of the criteria for applying the doctrine of collateral estoppel were present: the issues posed in each proceeding were identical, the issue was actually litigated in the administrative proceeding, the administrative law judge necessarily decided factual issues identical to the ones which were relitigated, the administrative law judge’s ruling was final, and the county and the district attorney were in privity (both represented the state at their respective proceedings).