People v. Jimenez, S249397

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court (California)
Writing for the CourtOpinion of the Court by Cuéllar, J.
Citation9 Cal.5th 53,259 Cal.Rptr.3d 233,459 P.3d 33
Parties The PEOPLE, Plaintiff and Appellant, v. Miguel Angel JIMENEZ, Defendant and Respondent.
Docket NumberS249397
Decision Date02 March 2020

9 Cal.5th 53
459 P.3d 33
259 Cal.Rptr.3d 233

The PEOPLE, Plaintiff and Appellant,
v.
Miguel Angel JIMENEZ, Defendant and Respondent.

S249397

Supreme Court of California.

March 2, 2020


Gregory D. Totten, District Attorney, Lisa O. Lyytikainen and Michelle J. Contois, Deputy District Attorneys, for Plaintiff and Appellant.

Todd W. Howeth, Public Defender, and William M. Quest, Deputy Public Defender, for Defendant and Respondent.

Opinion of the Court by Cuéllar, J.

9 Cal.5th 58

Consumers today entrust businesses with more personal data than ever before. Residing on remote servers and secured by protocols of varying strength, that trove of data is increasingly susceptible to breach and misuse. (See generally Douglas, 2020 Identity Theft Statistics (January 2020) Consumer Affairs < https://www.consumeraffairs.com/ finance/identity-theft-statistics.html> [as of Mar. 2, 2020].)1 Like many states, California criminalizes not only the nefarious ends enabled by information misuse — credit card fraud, for instance, and tax fraud — but also the act of using personal identifying information without authorization. ( Pen. Code, § 530.5, subd. (a).)2 That distinction matters in this case.

What we must decide here is whether a felony conviction for misuse of personal identifying information under section 530.5, subdivision (a) can be reduced to misdemeanor shoplifting under Proposition 47, which was approved by voters in the November 4, 2014 General Election. We hold that it cannot. Proposition 47 added section 459.5 to the Penal Code, which dictates that an "act of shoplifting ... shall be charged as shoplifting," and that

259 Cal.Rptr.3d 235

"[n]o person who is charged with shoplifting may also be charged with burglary or theft of the same property." ( § 459.5, subd. (b).) Its prohibition applies only to "burglary or theft" offenses. (Ibid .) Although misuse of identifying information is sometimes colloquially described as "identity theft," the language, context, and history of section 530.5, subdivision (a) tells us no "burglary or theft" offense is committed by virtue of a defendant violating that statute.

Reaching the opposite conclusion, the Court of Appeal below in People v. Jimenez (2018) 22 Cal.App.5th 1282, 232 Cal.Rptr.3d 386 ( Jimenez ) relied on the similarity between defendant’s conduct here — cashing a false check — and the conduct of the defendant in People v. Gonzales (2017) 2 Cal.5th 858, 216 Cal.Rptr.3d 285, 392 P.3d 437 ( Gonzales ). What we held in Gonzales is that a burglary conviction based on conduct meeting the requirements for shoplifting under section 459.5 could be reduced to shoplifting under Proposition 47. ( Gonzales , supra , 2 Cal.5th at p. 862, 216 Cal.Rptr.3d 285, 392 P.3d 437.) Our holding gave effect to section 459.5, subdivision (b), which provides that a person who commits "[a]ny act of shoplifting" cannot "be charged with burglary or theft of the same property." (Italics added.) But Jimenez was not charged with burglary, and in any event, our inquiry here is not whether

9 Cal.5th 59

Jimenez’s conduct could conceivably be called "shoplifting." We must address instead

459 P.3d 35

whether the public offense defined in section 530.5, subdivision (a), of which he was convicted, qualifies as a "theft" offense under section 459.5, subdivision (b).

It does not. Section 530.5 criminalizes the willful use of someone’s personal identifying information for an unlawful purpose, not an unlawful taking . It is not a theft offense because criminal liability pivots on how the information was used rather than how it was acquired. The offense therefore evinces a concern with the panoply of harms occurring when personal information is no longer personal.

A conviction for misuse of identifying information is not subject to reclassification as misdemeanor shoplifting. Because the Court of Appeal held otherwise, we reverse its judgment and remand.

I.

In June 2016, defendant Miguel Angel Jimenez twice entered Loans Plus, a commercial check-cashing store in Oxnard, to cash a check from OuterWall, Inc., made payable to himself. The first check sought $632.47, and the second, $596.60. Each contained OuterWall’s personal identifying information in the form of an account number. On both occasions, Loans Plus was open for business. And on both occasions, OuterWall had not issued the checks in Jimenez’s name, nor did Jimenez have permission to possess, issue, or use the checks.

The People charged Jimenez with two felony counts of misusing personal identifying information in violation of section 530.5, subdivision (a) –– an offense the prosecution informally calls "misuse of identity" and the defendant colloquially terms "identity theft." That section prohibits "willfully obtain[ing] personal identifying information" of another person "and us[ing] that information for any unlawful purpose, including to obtain, or attempt to obtain, credit, goods, services, real property, or medical information without the consent of that person." ( § 530.5, subd. (a).) The jury instructions provided the unlawful purpose for which Jimenez used OuterWall’s account information: "unlawfully obtaining or attempting to obtain money in the form of cash in exchange for a presented check without the consent of the other

259 Cal.Rptr.3d 236

person." The jury convicted Jimenez of both counts.

In May 2017, Jimenez moved to reclassify his felony convictions to misdemeanors under Proposition 47: The Safe Neighborhoods and Schools Act. To decrease the number of people in prison for nonviolent crimes, Proposition 47 reclassified certain drug- and theft-related offenses from

9 Cal.5th 60

felonies or "wobblers" to misdemeanors. It did this by amending the statutes that defined those crimes and redefining the way terms are understood throughout the Penal Code. (See Voter Information Guide, Gen. Elec. (Nov. 4, 2014) text of Prop. 47, § 8, p. 72 (Voter Information Guide) [adding, for instance, § 490.2 to lower the punishment for certain categories of grand theft "[n]otwithstanding ... any other provision of law defining grand theft"].)

One such amendment enshrined in California law a new misdemeanor shoplifting offense. ( § 459.5.) Distinct from felony burglary based on the value of the goods, the structure entered, and the time of entry, the new shoplifting offense prohibits entering a commercial establishment "with intent to commit larceny" while the establishment is open during business hours, and where the value of the property taken or intended to be taken is $950 or less. ( § 459.5, subd. (a).) Also affecting the scope of this new offense is the following limitation: Any act of shoplifting "shall be charged as shoplifting," and, "[n]o person who is charged with shoplifting may also be charged with burglary or theft of the same property." (Id ., subd. (b).)

Jimenez made the case for relief relying on our recent opinion in Gonzales , supra , 2 Cal.5th at page 862, 216 Cal.Rptr.3d 285, 392 P.3d 437, in which we held that the shoplifting statute applied to an entry with intent to commit nonlarcenous theft. Like Jimenez, the defendant in Gonzales had entered a commercial establishment and cashed two checks containing another person’s bank account information. ( Ibid . ) Because Jimenez committed essentially the same conduct as Gonzales, Jimenez argued his conduct, too, constituted misdemeanor shoplifting under section 459.5, subdivision (a). The trial court granted Jimenez’s motion. It concluded that

459 P.3d 36

between Gonzales and our earlier opinion in People v. Romanowski (2017) 2 Cal.5th 903, 215 Cal.Rptr.3d 758, 391 P.3d 633 ( Romanowski ), its " ‘hands ha[d] been somewhat tied.’ " ( Jimenez , supra , 22 Cal.App.5th at p. 1286, 232 Cal.Rptr.3d 386.) What we held in Romanowski is that theft of access card information could be reduced to a misdemeanor under another provision of Proposition 47, codified at Penal Code section 490.2. ( Romanowski , supra , 2 Cal.5th at pp. 905–906, 215 Cal.Rptr.3d 758, 391 P.3d 633.) Romanowski and Gonzales , the court said, mandated reduction of " ‘conduct that has been described in Proposition 47 as a shoplifting type of offense.’ " ( Jimenez , at p. 1286, 232 Cal.Rptr.3d 386.) " ‘And even though [this case] involves a different charge,’ it observed, ‘it appears to be somewhat of a theft charge which was the focus of Gonzale [s ] and Romanowski .’ " ( Ibid . )

The People appealed the trial court’s decision to reduce Jimenez’s conviction, and the Court of Appeal affirmed, reasoning that Jimenez’s criminal conduct is "identical to Gonzales’s conduct." ( Jimenez , supra , 22 Cal.App.5th at p. 1289, 232 Cal.Rptr.3d 386.) It observed that "both entered a commercial establishment during

9 Cal.5th 61

business hours for the purpose of cashing stolen checks valued at less than $950 each. Both defendants [entered with intent to commit] ‘theft by false pretenses,’...

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45 practice notes
  • People v. Sorden, D076458
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • May 18, 2021
    ...of a statute—here, section 166, subdivision (c)(4) —is a question of law which we review de novo. ( People v. Jimenez (2020) 9 Cal.5th 53, 61, 259 Cal.Rptr.3d 233, 459 P.3d 33.)With regard to the applicable law related to jury instructions, we incorporate by reference our discussion at part......
  • Smith v. LoanMe, Inc., S260391
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (California)
    • April 1, 2021
    ...569, 434 P.3d 564.) The interpretation of a statute presents a question of law that this court reviews de novo. ( People v. Jimenez (2020) 9 Cal.5th 53, 61, 259 Cal.Rptr.3d 233, 459 P.3d 33 ; Goodman v. Lozano (2010) 47 Cal.4th 1327, 1332, 104 Cal.Rptr.3d 219, 223 P.3d 77.)B. The Context an......
  • Powers v. Covello, 20-cv-04244-HSG
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. Northern District of California
    • April 22, 2022
    ...Superior Court. Ans., Ex. 14 at 69-84. On June 11, 2020, the superior court denied the petition with a citation to People v. Jimenez, 9 Cal. 5th 53 (Cal. 2020). Ans., Ex. 14 at 85 (Dkt. No. 17-31 at 87). In Jimenez, the California Supreme Court held that Proposition 47 does not allow for th......
  • People v. Sorden, D076458
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • May 18, 2021
    ...interpretation of a statute-here, section 166, subdivision (c)(4)-is a question of law which we review de novo. (People v. Jimenez (2020) 9 Cal.5th 53, 61.) With regard to the applicable law related to jury instructions, we incorporate by reference our discussion at part III.B.2., ante. 3. ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
45 cases
  • People v. Sorden, D076458
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • May 18, 2021
    ...of a statute—here, section 166, subdivision (c)(4) —is a question of law which we review de novo. ( People v. Jimenez (2020) 9 Cal.5th 53, 61, 259 Cal.Rptr.3d 233, 459 P.3d 33.)With regard to the applicable law related to jury instructions, we incorporate by reference our discussion at part......
  • Smith v. LoanMe, Inc., S260391
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (California)
    • April 1, 2021
    ...569, 434 P.3d 564.) The interpretation of a statute presents a question of law that this court reviews de novo. ( People v. Jimenez (2020) 9 Cal.5th 53, 61, 259 Cal.Rptr.3d 233, 459 P.3d 33 ; Goodman v. Lozano (2010) 47 Cal.4th 1327, 1332, 104 Cal.Rptr.3d 219, 223 P.3d 77.)B. The Context an......
  • Powers v. Covello, 20-cv-04244-HSG
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. Northern District of California
    • April 22, 2022
    ...Superior Court. Ans., Ex. 14 at 69-84. On June 11, 2020, the superior court denied the petition with a citation to People v. Jimenez, 9 Cal. 5th 53 (Cal. 2020). Ans., Ex. 14 at 85 (Dkt. No. 17-31 at 87). In Jimenez, the California Supreme Court held that Proposition 47 does not allow for th......
  • People v. Sorden, D076458
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • May 18, 2021
    ...interpretation of a statute-here, section 166, subdivision (c)(4)-is a question of law which we review de novo. (People v. Jimenez (2020) 9 Cal.5th 53, 61.) With regard to the applicable law related to jury instructions, we incorporate by reference our discussion at part III.B.2., ante. 3. ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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