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Name: People v. Hassan
Case #: B194141
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 2 DCA
Division: 2
Opinion Date: 12/03/2008

A marriage license qualifies as an “instrument” which can subject a person to prosecution under Penal Code section 115, subdivision (a) for offering a false or forged instrument for recording. Appellant was convicted of offering a false instrument for recording by virtue of having signed a license and certificate of confidential marriage even though he was not cohabitating with the woman with whom he claimed to be living together. He argued on appeal that the license was not an “instrument” for purposes of the statute because older case law restricted qualifying instruments to real property records. The Court of Appeal held the term should be interpreted more broadly. There is no reason why real estate records alone should be worthy of protection. If a document is entitled to be filed, registered, or recorded, it has sufficient legal significance to constitute an instrument. Penal Code section 132 which prohibits offering false evidence in a “trial, proceeding, inquiry, or investigation” is inapplicable to federal proceedings. Appellant argued his conviction for violating section 132 should be reversed because he offered documents to a federal immigration officer, and the statute is ambiguous as to whether it applies only to state and local proceedings, or also to federal ones. Relying on People v. Kelly (1869) 38 Cal. 145, the appellate court held the statute applies only to state proceedings. There are several federal laws criminalizing similar conduct. By limiting section 132 to state proceedings, it avoids a construction where the federal laws are simply enforced by the state law. The court reversed the conviction.