March 23, 2017

Divided Supreme Court rules cashing a stolen check is “shoplifting” under Prop. 47, allowing for misdemeanor resentencing

In People v. Gonzales, the Supreme Court today holds that, under the four-year-old Proposition 47, entering a bank to cash a stolen check under $950 is now called “shoplifting,” not theft by false pretenses.  The nomenclature is important because the change makes the defendant in the case eligible for a sentence reduction.  The court’s 5-2 opinion by Justice Carol Corrigan concludes that “shoplifting” no longer means just taking goods from a store.  Instead, Proposition 47 “creates a term of art, which must be understood as it is defined, not in its colloquial sense.”

Justice Ming Chin — joined by Justice Goodwin Liu — dissents.  He claims that the majority’s statutory interpretation cannot be what the electorate intended, because it modifies the term “shoplifting” “from its commonly understood meaning and expand[s] it beyond all recognition.”

Both the majority and dissenting opinions cite to published Court of Appeal opinions in which the Supreme Court granted review after last July 1.  Under a new publication rule, there’s nothing wrong with that.

The court reverses the Fourth District, Division One, Court of Appeal.

Leave a Reply