False Impersonation Conviction Reversed by Appellate Court
In March of 2010, Tulare County police officers conducted a traffic stop. They recognized Jose Contreras Casarez in the back seat, as his picture and description was on a wanted-person flyer in the police station. They specifically recognized his tattoos. Mr. Casarez had a prior felony within the meaning of the Three Strikes law (Penal Code §§ 667, 1170), has served three prior prison terms and was ineligible for probation.The Gist of This Article: False impersonation under Penal Code § 529 is a two-part crime that is often charged with only the first part committed by defendant. The following article summarizes such a case and should be understood by anyone charged with violation of § 529.
When officers asked his name, he replied with his brother’s name. When officer’s appeared dubious, he produced his brother’s birth certificate, claiming it was his own.
He did not fool the officers, who arrested him and charged him with a felony violation of section 529(2). The District Attorney then filed the case and about two months later, he went to trial. The jury convicted him and the judge sentenced him to five years in prison (two years doubled for the prior strike, plus one year for a prior prison term). The two other prior prison term enhancements were dismissed in the interest of justice.
The Fifth Appellate District, in People v. Jose Contreras Casarez (2012 DJDAR 2625), agreed with Casarez and reversed the conviction.
The Appellate Court began its analysis by emphasizing that Penal Code section 529 requires one to not only impersonate another person, but to commit an additional act. The additional act compounds the deception or furthers it. The statute specifies examples such as impersonating another and then acting as a surety for another, or publishing something in another’s name or “any other act” that may incur liability (i.e. by signing a contract, applying for a credit card) or prosecution for the person falsely impersonated.
Looking at the facts of the case, the Court then noted that Casarez did not attempt to record, publish or use the birth certificate as true. Casarez did not attempt to gain anything by using the birth certificate, although our readers may rhetorically ask, “well, wasn’t Casarez trying to make the police go away?”
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