What if two statutes seem to criminalize the same conduct? Perjury vs. False Statement


Section 211 defines robbery as “the felonious taking of personal property in the possession of another, from his [or her] person or immediate presence, and against his [or her] will, accomplished by means of force or fear.” In terms of the amount of force required to elevate a taking to a robbery, ‘something more is required than just that quantum of force which is necessary to accomplish the mere seizing of the property.’ (People v. Morales (1975) 49 Cal.App.3d 134, 139 (Morales).)

Perjury v. False Statement

As pertinent here, section 118, subdivision (a), under which Joseph was charged and convicted, provides that: “Every person who . . . declares . . . under penalty of perjury in any of the cases in which . . . declarations . . . [are] permitted by law of the State of California under penalty of perjury and willfully states as true any material matter which he or she knows to be false, is guilty of perjury.” “A ‘declaration’ is an unsworn written statement certified to be true under penalty of perjury. (Code Civ. Proc., § 2015.5.)” (People v. Griffini (1998) 65 Cal.App.4th 581, 586.)

Vehicle Code section 10501, subdivision (a), which we asked the parties to discuss in their supplemental briefing, provides that “[i]t is unlawful for any person to make or file a false or fraudulent report of theft of a vehicle required to be registered under this code with any law enforcement agency with intent to deceive.” (Veh. Code, § 10501, subd. (a).) A first conviction for violating section 10501, subdivision (a), is a misdemeanor. (People v. Murphy (2011) 52 Cal.4th 81, 85 (Murphy).)

The Williamson Rule

“Under the Williamson rule, if a general statute includes the same conduct as a special statute,[4] the court infers that the Legislature intended that conduct to be prosecuted exclusively under the special statute. In effect, the special statute is interpreted as creating an exception to the general statute for conduct that otherwise could be prosecuted under either statute. (Ibid.) ‘The rule is not one of constitutional or statutory mandate, but serves as an aid to judicial interpretation when two statutes conflict.’ (People v. Walker (2002) 29 Cal.4th 577, 586.) ‘The doctrine that a specific statute precludes any prosecution under a general statute is a rule designed to ascertain and carry out legislative intent. The fact that the Legislature has enacted a specific statute covering much the same ground as a more general law is a powerful indication that the Legislature intended the specific provision alone to apply. Indeed, in most instances, an overlap of provisions is determinative of the issue of legislative intent and “requires us to give effect to the special provision alone in the face of the dual applicability of the general provision . . . and the special provision . . . .” (People v. Gilbert [(1969)] 1 Cal.3d [475,] 481.)’ (People v. Jenkins (1980) 28 Cal.3d 494, 505–506 (Jenkins), fn. omitted.)” (Murphy, supra, 52 Cal.4th at p. 86.)

“Absent some indication of legislative intent to the contrary, 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.’ (People v. Watson (1981) 30 Cal.3d 290, 295–296.) In its clearest application, the rule is triggered when a violation of a provision of the special statute would inevitably constitute a violation of the general statute . . . .

Read Full Opinion at https://www.courts.ca.gov/opinions/documents/B285062.PDF

People v. Michael Joseph, B285062

Anton Vialtsin, Esq.
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