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Name: People v. Henry
Case #: H044626
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 6 DCA
Opinion Date: 10/29/2018
Summary

Felony false personation conviction reversed where defendant’s conduct constituted a violation of a more specific misdemeanor statute. Henry was convicted by a jury of felony false personation (Pen. Code, § 529, subd. (a)(3)) after he gave a friend’s name to a police officer at a traffic stop and signed a citation with that name. Henry appealed, arguing that his conviction violated the Williamson rule (In re Williamson (1954) 43 Cal.2d 651), which prohibits prosecution under a general statute when the conduct at issue is covered under a more specific statute. Held: Reversed and remanded. 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. When a special statute can be violated in two different ways, one of which does not violate the general statute, the reviewing court should consider only if the present conduct at issue would commonly violate the general statute. Here, Henry argued that his conduct should have been charged as a misdemeanor under Vehicle Code section 40504, subdivision (b), which criminalizes the signing of a false or fictitious name on a promise to appear for the traffic citation. Section 529, subdivision (a)(3), makes criminal the act of falsely impersonating another in a way that would make that person liable to any suit or prosecution. Vehicle Code section 40504, subdivision (b) can be violated by signing either a false or a fictitious name. The signing of a fictitious name would not constitute a violation of Penal Code section 529, subdivision (a)(3). However, because Henry falsely gave the name of a real person, his conduct violated both the special and general statutes. In reviewing the legislative history of Vehicle Code section 40504, the court determined that the Legislature intended to create an exception to the felony punishment as stated under the more general statute, and therefore the Williamson rule applied.

The full opinion is available on the court’s website here: https://www.courts.ca.gov/opinions/archive/H044626.PDF