People v. Jenkins, Cr. 21610

Citation620 P.2d 587,170 Cal.Rptr. 1,28 Cal.3d 494
Decision Date15 December 1980
Docket NumberCr. 21610
Parties, 620 P.2d 587 The PEOPLE, Plaintiff and Appellant, v. Margie JENKINS, Defendant and Respondent.
CourtUnited States State Supreme Court (California)

Evelle J. Younger and George Deukmejian, Attys. Gen., Jack R. Winkler, Chief Asst. Atty. Gen., Arnold O. Overoye, Asst. Atty. Gen., Eddie T. Keller, Jana Tuton, James T. McNally and James Ching, Deputy Attys. Gen., for plaintiff and appellant.

Quin Denvir, State Public Defender, under appointment by the Court of Appeal, Richard E. Shapiro, Michael G. Arkelian and Julia Cline Newcomb, Deputy State Public Defenders, for defendant and respondent.

John McDermott, Los Angeles, Daniel S. Brunner, San Pedro, and Marilyn Katz, Los Angeles, as amici curiae on behalf of defendant and respondent.

BIRD, Chief Justice.

This appeal presents the question whether an individual who fraudulently obtains aid to families with dependent children (AFDC) in violation of Welfare and Institutions Code section 11483 may also be prosecuted for perjury (Pen.Code, § 118).


On April 10, 1975, respondent Margie Jenkins went to the Sacramento County Welfare Department to request AFDC benefits for her daughter. (See Welf. & Inst.Code, § 11200 et seq.) She was given a lengthy document, a WR-2 form, which she was instructed to fill out in order to establish her child's eligibility for the AFDC program.

On April 15, respondent returned to the welfare department with the completed WR-2 form and an eligibility worker reviewed the form with her. Respondent then signed the form in the space provided, underneath the sentence "I declare under penalty of perjury that the foregoing statements on this form are true and correct." Respondent reported on the WR-2 form that her gross income for April was $278. Evidence adduced at her preliminary hearing below indicated that respondent and her daughter together earned $471 gross ($412 net) for that month.

The eligibility worker explained to respondent her "reporting responsibilities," which included the requirement that respondent fill out, sign, and mail back to the welfare office each month a "Monthly Income Report," a WR-7 form. Evidence at the preliminary hearing indicated that respondent filled out WR-7 forms and obtained AFDC benefits for her daughter for some of the 13 months following her meeting with the eligibility worker. During that period, respondent and her daughter had a total gross income from various jobs of about $1,770. In her WR-7 forms for May 1975 and March 1976, respondent either underreported or failed to report her earnings. 1 The errors in the WR-2 and WR-7 forms resulted in an overpayment of more that $200 in benefits.

Based on this evidence, the district attorney filed a two-count information in superior court. In count I, respondent was accused of a felony violation of Welfare and Institutions Code section 11483 (AFDC fraud) during the period from April 1, 1975, to May 31, 1976. 2 Count II alleged that respondent committed perjury in violation of Penal Code section 118 when she signed the WR-2 form on April 15, 1975. 3 Respondent moved to dismiss count II on the ground that the Welfare and Institutions Code statute proscribing AFDC fraud was a specific statute which precluded the state from prosecuting her under the more general perjury statute in the Penal Code. The superior court granted the motion, and the prosecution has appealed.


In the 13 chapters constituting part 3 of division 9 of the Welfare and Institutions Code, the Legislature has provided for public assistance programs for certain needy persons in this state. (§§ 11000-15520.) Chapter 1 of part 3 contains "General Provisions" pertaining to those programs (§§ 11000-11175), chapter 2 sets forth the AFDC program (§§ 11200-11489). 4

Among the general provisions in chapter 1 are statutes relating to applications for public aid or assistance. (§§ 11050-11063.) Section 11054 requires each applicant to file an "affirmation" of eligibility before aid or assistance may initially be approved. Such "statements" shall be on prescribed forms and "in the case of applicants for aid to families with dependent children, shall contain a written declaration that the affirmation is made under penalty of perjury." (Ibid., emphasis added.) If a person signs "a statement containing such declaration" and willfully and knowingly with intent to deceive states as true any material matter which he knows to be false, he is "subject to the penalties prescribed for perjury in the Penal Code." (Ibid.) Once an applicant has begun to receive aid, he or she may be required to fill out "new statements" at any time for purposes of continuing assistance. (Ibid.) 5 Chapter 2 of part 3 specifically sets forth the AFDC program. The chapter prescribes (inter alia) the eligibility requirements for AFDC benefits (§§ 11250-11268) and requires the county to "redetermine eligibility annually" (§ 11265, subd. (a).). The county must at the time of such redetermination, and may monthly or at such other intervals as may be deemed necessary, require the family to complete a "certificate of eligibility containing a written declaration of such information as may be required to establish the continuing eligibility and amount of grant " (Ibid.) Each adult member of the family must provide, "under penalty of perjury," the information necessary to complete the certificate of eligibility. (§ 11265, subd. (b).) 6

Two provisions in the "Enforcement" portion of chapter 2 make AFDC fraud illegal: sections 11482 and 11483. 7 Both sections prohibit the obtaining of aid by means of "false statement or representation." (See People v. Gilbert (1969) 1 Cal.3d 475, 480-481, 82 Cal.Rptr. 724, 462 P.2d 580.) Section 11482 also prohibits unsuccessful attempts to obtain aid. A violation of section 11482 is punishable as a misdemeanor, whereas a prosecution under section 11483 may proceed either as a misdemeanor or as an alternative felony-misdemeanor, depending upon whether or not the amount of aid illegally obtained exceeded $200. Both now and at the time of respondent's alleged crime, the punishment prescribed for a felony violation of section 11483 has been less than that prescribed for perjury under the Penal Code. 8

Unlike section 11054 in chapter 1, none of the AFDC statutes in chapter 2 contains language which expressly authorizes an individual's being "subject(ed) to the penalty prescribed for perjury in the Penal Code."

In dismissing the perjury charge below, the superior court impliedly ruled-and respondent reasserts on appeal-that since section 11483 is a "special" statute dealing with AFDC fraud, the more "general" perjury provisions of section 118 do not apply. Reference is made to " 'the general rule that where the general statute standing alone would include the same matter as the special act, and thus conflict with it, the special act will be considered as an exception to the general statute whether it was passed before or after such general enactment.' " (In re Williamson (1954) 43 Cal.2d 651, 654, 276 P.2d 593 citations omitted; People v. Gilbert, supra, 1 Cal.3d at p. 479, 82 Cal.Rptr. 724, 462 P.2d 580.)

The Attorney General responds by relying on People v. Isaac (1976) 56 Cal.App.3d 679, 128 Cal.Rptr. 872 in which the Court of Appeal held that a prosecution for perjury under section 118 was not precluded by the misdemeanor provisions of section 11482. The Court of Appeal noted that "(a) special statute does not supplant a general statute unless all of the requirements of the general statute are covered in the special statute." (56 Cal.App.3d at p. 683, 128 Cal.Rptr. 872.) The court then compared the elements of section 118 with those contained in section 11482. Since section 118 applies only to false statements under oath or affirmation whereas section 11482 (like § 11483) covers any false statements, the court concluded that "the rule articulated in Williamson is inapplicable." (Ibid.)

However, this analysis is defective for it is incomplete. It is true, as the Isaac court divined from Gilbert, that the Williamson rule is applicable when each element of the "general" statute corresponds to an element on the face of the "specific" statute. However, the converse does not necessarily follow. It is not correct to assume that the rule is inapplicable whenever the general statute contains an element not found within the four corners of the "special" law. Rather, the courts must consider the context in which the statutes are placed. If it appears from the entire context that a violation of the "special" statute will necessarily or commonly result in a violation of the "general" statute, the Williamson rule may apply even though the elements of the general statute are not mirrored on the face of the special statute.

Two cases underscore this point. In People v. Swann (1963) 213 Cal.App.2d 447, 28 Cal.Rptr. 830, the evidence adduced at the preliminary hearing indicated that the defendant had made two purchases of goods using a stolen credit card. The prosecution charged the crime of forgery, a felony. (Pen.Code, § 470.) The accused moved under Penal Code section 995 to dismiss the forgery count on the ground that the Penal Code provisions relating to credit card use precluded a conviction for the more general crime of forgery. (See Pen.Code, § 484a, subd. (b)(6).) The superior court granted the section 995 motion, and the Court of Appeal affirmed.

The Court of Appeal stated that "the People do not have the power to prosecute under the general felony statute in a case such as this where the facts of the alleged offense parallel the acts proscribed by a specific statute." (213 Cal.App.2d at p. 449, 28 Cal.Rptr. 830.) The court noted that the crime of forgery contained as an element a requirement that the accused "sign" the credit instrument, whereas the offense of credit card use applied on its face to any "use" of the...

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