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Name: People v. Martinez
Case #: H042889
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 6 DCA
Opinion Date: 11/07/2016
Summary

Felony “receipt for goods” forgery is not eligible for Proposition 47 reduction to a misdemeanor. In 2000, Martinez pleaded guilty to felony forgery by signing another person’s name to a credit card receipt for goods (Pen. Code, § 470, subd. (a)) after making credit card purchases at a service station. In March 2015, he petitioned to redesignate the felony as a misdemeanor (Pen. Code, § 1170.18, subd. (f)). The trial court denied the petition because felony “receipt for goods” forgery is not listed in the forgery statute that was amended by Proposition 47 (Pen. Code, § 473, subd. (b)). Martinez appealed. Held: Affirmed. Proposition 47 reclassified certain theft-related felonies as misdemeanors for eligible defendants. Section 473, which provides the punishment for forgery, was amended by Proposition 47. While subdivision (a) of section 473, provides that forgery offenses are wobblers, subdivision (b) now provides that, notwithstanding subdivision (a), any person who is guilty of forgery relating to a check, bond, bank bill, note, cashier’s check, traveler’s check or money order, where the value of the instrument does not exceed $950, receives misdemeanor punishment. The language of the statute is clear: if the forgery does not involve one of the seven instruments specified in section 473, subdivision (b), it is a wobbler under subdivision (a). A receipt for goods forgery is not one of the seven enumerated instruments in section 473, subdivision (b), so Martinez is ineligible for reduction of his offense.

Denying a Proposition 47 petition for redesignation of a felony “receipt for goods” forgery does not violate defendant’s state and federal constitutional right to equal protection. The concept of equal protection provides that persons who are similarly situated with respect to the law’s legitimate purpose must be treated equally. However, it need not be decided whether defendants convicted of felony “receipt for goods” forgery are similarly situated to defendants convicted of forgery involving one of the seven instruments listed in Penal Code section 473, subdivision (b), because the disparate treatment between the two groups has a rational basis. The drafters of Proposition 47 and the electorate could reasonably have determined that fraudulent use of a credit card results in greater harm than writing a bad check. Further, a defendant does not have a fundamental interest in a specific term of imprisonment or the designation a particular crime receives.

The full opinion is available on the court’s website here: http://www.courts.ca.gov/opinions/documents/H042889.PDF