PEOPLE v. GARFIELD

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Court of Appeal, First District, Division 2, California.

The PEOPLE of the State of California, Plaintiff and Respondent, v. Allen GARFIELD, Defendant and Appellant.

A020019.

Decided: October 18, 1984

George T. Davis, Joseph C. Morehead, San Francisco, for defendant and appellant. John K. Van de Kamp, Atty. Gen., Ann K. Jensen, Morris Lenk, Deputy Attys. Gen., San Francisco, for plaintiff and respondent.

Statement of the Case

A complaint was filed in the municipal court charging defendant Allen Garfield with offering a false and forged will to be filed in a public office, in violation of section 115 of the Penal Code.1  The complaint showed that the crime was allegedly committed more than three years earlier.   Defendant demurred, claiming that the action was barred by the statute of limitations.  (§ 800;  see People v. Luse (1949) 95 Cal.App.2d 200, 203, 212 P.2d 582.)   The demurrer was overruled.   Thereafter, an information was filed alleging the same violation of section 115.   Defendant again moved to dismiss the information on grounds that the action was time barred.   The motion was denied.   Thereafter, defendant was tried and found guilty.   He appeals from the judgment of conviction.

The Evidence

Doctor Edward Smith testified that he has known defendant for 25 years and that defendant was his patient.   Mrs. Estelle Requa (decedent) was also a patient of Doctor Smith until her death on October 28, 1978.   He stated that she suffered from hardening of the arteries as a result of severe alcohol abuse and that she had memory lapses due to senility which became more frequent between 1973 and 1978.

He testified that in 1973 the decedent hired Mr. Randall Stone as a live-in chauffeur, household helper, and companion.   He said that the decedent was very fond of Mr. Stone.

He related that in 1973 the decedent gave a Christmas party which was attended by, inter alia, himself, defendant, defendant's wife, and Mr. Stone.   He testified that defendant's wife danced around the living room and that the decedent was not at all pleased with such behavior.   He said that the decedent did not like defendant's wife and never wanted to see her again.   However, he also noted that he spoke with the decedent about defendant's wife only once after the party.

Dr. Smith testified that, prior to decedent's funeral in November 1978, Mr. Stone had shown him a copy of a will that Mr. Stone had found in decedent's wastebasket.   This copy had been torn in half and taped back together.   The terms of this will differed from those in the will which defendant had filed for probate and sent to both him and Mr. Stone.   He stated that he was quite surprised at one specific difference:  the will filed for probate contained a gift of all of the decedent's jewelry to defendant's wife, but the torn will did not.   He was surprised because he believed that the decedent did not like defendant's wife.   Dr. Smith was named the decedent's executor.   He asked defendant to meet with him and Mr. Stone after the funeral.   At this meeting in November 1978, he showed defendant the two wills.   He testified that defendant became startled and wide-eyed and said, “Okay, I will give the jewels to Randall.”   Defendant offered no explanation for not wanting the jewelry but said that he had changed the will because the decedent wanted to leave her jewelry to his wife and was concerned that Mr. Stone would poison her.   Dr. Smith testified that he, defendant, and Mr. Stone were satisfied with the offer to relinquish any claim to the jewelry and that seemed a fair way to settle the problem, since under the terms of the torn will, Mr. Stone was to receive the jewelry.

He testified further that he spoke with defendant later, in 1981, after the district attorney became involved in the case.   Defendant told him that he was going to stick to the story that decedent feared that Mr. Stone was going to poison her.

Mr. Stone testified that he worked for the decedent from 1972 until her death.   He testified that in 1975, the decedent would often get confused and tear apart everything that she saw.   He said that he found in her wastebasket a copy of a 1974 will that she had apparently torn up.   He retrieved it and taped it back together.   He had previously discussed this will with the decedent, explaining various clauses to her.   After fixing the copy, Mr. Stone kept it because he felt that the decedent could not be trusted to keep her documents safely.

Mr. Stone testified that the decedent was angered by defendant's wife's dancing at the 1973 party.   He said that the decedent never wanted to see her again and repeatedly made her negative feelings known.

Mr. Stone testified that after the decedent's death, defendant called him and told him that he was not getting the decedent's jewelry and that what happened to it was none of his business.   Defendant called back later to apologize for having shouted at Mr. Stone.   He also said that he was going to stop by and collect any copies of decedent's will that were there and also give Mr. Stone a copy of the will he had filed for probate.   Mr. Stone said that defendant came by, spent time looking for copies of the will, and gave him a filed copy of the will.   Stone said that he gave defendant a copy of the torn will, but retained the one he had originally found.   He admitted that he lied when defendant asked him if there were any other copies of the will.

Mr. Stone testified that defendant told him that the decedent had decided to give his wife her jewelry after the 1973 party and that that was the reason Mr. Stone was not getting it.   Mr. Stone testified that before defendant gave him a filed copy of the will, he had never seen a will that included a gift to defendant's wife or which mentioned her name.

Thereafter he realized that the probated will differed from the copy he had retrieved and taped together.   He discussed the matter with Dr. Smith and they decided to talk to defendant about it.   They all met after the funeral.   Mr. Stone testified that defendant was shocked to see the torn will.   He testified that defendant said, “I don't want this jewelry.”   Defendant explained the decedent's fear of being poisoned by Mr. Stone if Mr. Stone found out about the bequest to defendant's wife.   Defendant, however, agreed to abide by the terms of the torn will.

Mr. Stone also testified that later, when he was riding to the cemetery with defendant, defendant said that he wouldn't do anything to be disbarred and that he would appreciate it if the whole matter could remain just among the three of them.   He testified that defendant got extremely upset with him because he had read a part of the will to a cousin of the decedent.   However, defendant calmed down when he learned that Mr. Stone had read her a part that was the same in both wills.   Later defendant bought the jewelry from Mr. Stone for $22,000.

Finally, Mr. Stone testified that defendant called him in late 1981 and said, “I thought we made a deal.”   Mr. Stone responded that if there was ever a deal, he had changed his mind.   Defendant asked how much he owed Mr. Stone.   Mr. Stone said that he did not discuss the matter further except to say that defendant now had to answer questions from the “powers to be.”

Mrs. Susan Morton, a document analyst for the United States Postal Inspection Staff Crime Laboratory, testified that she inspected the will which defendant filed for probate.   It was four pages long.   Three of the pages had staple holes which were not in the other page.   This page was page three of the will, in which there was a gift to defendant's wife.   She concluded that at one time the three pages had been stapled together but that page three was not with them.

Defendant testified that he first began representing the decedent in 1972.   He drafted a will for her in 1973 and a second will that same year.   He drafted a third will for her in 1974.   He said that in this will the decedent made changes from the previous will by increasing the bequest to Mr. Stone.   After he prepared the will, he brought it to the decedent.   He testified that she wanted to make some further changes.   Among other things, decedent wanted to bequeath her jewelry to him for his services.   Defendant admitted that she had paid his fees and also that any unpaid balance could properly have been paid by the executor.   Defendant testified that he told the decedent that he could not receive a gift in the will because he was drafting it and such a gift would be improper.   He said that she decided to give the jewelry to his wife instead.   He testified, “In effect what she was saying was that she was making a gift to me for my services to her which I could not take but that she would leave [the jewelry] to my wife which would be the same.”   Defendant testified that the jewelry had been appraised and that it was worth more than $20,000.

After his discussion with decedent, he returned to his office to make the changes.   He realized that only page three of the will needed revision so he unstapled the will, wrote out the corrections, had his secretary type a new page three, and restapled the will together.   Defendant insisted that the changes were made at the decedent's request and before the will was executed.

Defendant testified that on May 14, 1974, he brought the will to the decedent, read it to her, asked her if it was her will, and that she signed it.   She also signed a copy.   Defendant said that the decedent asked him to keep the will and the copy because she was afraid that Mr. Stone would poison her if he knew of the gift to defendant's wife.   Defendant took the will and the copy and kept them at his office.

Defendant testified concerning the torn will found by Mr. Stone.   He explained that it was an intentionally “bogus will” that he created at decedent's request.   He said that she wanted a will to show to Mr. Stone that did not set forth the gift to defendant's wife.   To do so, defendant took the original will apart and inserted a different page three, in which the gift to his wife did not appear.   He then wrote “[s]igned May 14th, 1974, present will November 14th, 1974” on top and put his initials next to it.   This message was a code to the decedent that this will was the fake.   Defendant admitted, however, that it would be obvious which will was “real” and which one was “fake” because of the gift to his wife.   Defendant then mailed this fake will to the decedent.

In December 1975, defendant sent the decedent a letter stating that he had enclosed a copy of the will as requested by her and that this will superseded all others.   He stated that this copy of the will included the gift to his wife.   Similarly, in September 1977 he received a letter from decedent which stated that “as I have made a new will, please send me the copy of the old will which you have.”   Immediately thereafter defendant received a letter from Mr. Stone.   In it Mr. Stone said that the decedent was confused and had not written a new will.   He thought that she could not follow through on things and he suggested that defendant simply write her and remind her that he had already sent her a copy of the will in 1975.

Defendant sent the decedent a copy of the 1974 will with a letter offering his services if she intended to write a new will.

Defendant testified that Mr. Stone called him on the day the decedent died.   He went to the decedent's apartment, called a funeral home, and searched for copies of the will.   He said that Mr. Stone never gave him a copy of a will.

He testified that at the funeral he had a conversation with Mr. Stone and Dr. Smith.   They showed him a copy of a will which differed from the will he had filed for probate.   Mr. Stone pointed out the discrepancy in the jewelry bequest.   Defendant testified that he said, “I will give you the jewels and jewelry.”   He testified that he did not mean this as an admission of guilt.   He insisted that the torn will was bogus and that the will he had probated was valid.   He testified that he told Mr. Stone and Dr. Smith about the creation of the bogus will and the decedent's fear of being poisoned.   However, he told them that he did not need the jewels because his wife was an invalid and his daughter was dead.

Defendant denied asking Mr. Stone to keep the matter quiet.   He admitted that he later gave Mr. Stone a check for $22,000 for the jewelry.

Defendant denied changing the 1974 will that was filed for probate at any time after its execution.   He said that at some time the decedent had told him that the bogus will did not matter any more and therefore he was not worried that Mr. Stone would poison her when he sent her a copy of the 1974 will in 1975 and again in 1977.   Defendant did not recall a telephone conversation with Mr. Stone after decedent's death concerning the decedent's jewelry.   Nor did he recall visiting Mr. Stone on that date and giving him a filed copy of the will.   He said that he mailed a filed copy to Mr. Stone and the others concerned on October 30, 1978.   Finally, defendant denied that in 1981 he said to Mr. Stone, “I thought we made a deal.”   He admitted talking to Mr. Stone because Mr. Stone had instigated an investigation of him.

I.

Defendant contends that the trial court erred when it denied his motion to dismiss the information on grounds that it was barred by the statute of limitations and that his subsequent prosecution was not permissible under section 799, which provides that a prosecution for “the falsification of public records” may be commenced at any time after the discovery of the crime.2

 The interpretation of a statute presents a question of law.   (Generes v. Justice Court (1980) 106 Cal.App.3d 678, 681, 165 Cal.Rptr. 222.)   In determining the meaning of section 799, and the scope of its application, our primary concern is to ascertain the legislative intent so as to effectuate the statute's purpose.  (People v. Shirokow (1980) 26 Cal.3d 301, 306–307, 162 Cal.Rptr. 30, 605 P.2d 859.)

 It is reasonable to assume that the Legislature created an exception from the general statute of limitations for “the falsification of public records” because such an offense is generally committed secretly or is hidden behind superficially innocent conduct.   Thus its detection is retarded by the very manner in which it is committed.  (See People v. Darling (1964) 230 Cal.App.2d 615, 621, 41 Cal.Rptr. 219.)   It is clear that the underlying purpose of the statute is to protect the integrity and veracity of public records, files and archives and to prevent their pollution.   Indeed, the absolute nature of the exception and the fact that it applies to only three other types of offenses indicate that the Legislature places great importance on such protection and prevention and considers “the falsification of public records” to be a substantial harm.3

 Consequently, in construing section 799, primary importance must be given to the harm therein identified and the protection sought.   (Judson Steel Corp. v. Workers' Comp. Appeals Bd. (1978) 22 Cal.3d 658, 669, 150 Cal.Rptr. 250, 586 P.2d 564;  People v. Carroll (1970) 1 Cal.3d 581, 584, 83 Cal.Rptr. 176, 463 P.2d 400;  Freedland v. Greco (1955) 45 Cal.2d 462, 467, 289 P.2d 463.)   The statute's prophylactic purpose should be promoted rather than defeated.  (East Bay Garbage Co. v. Washington Township Sanitation Co. (1959) 52 Cal.2d 708, 713, 344 P.2d 289;  Southland Mechanical Contructors Corp. v. Nixen (1981) 119 Cal.App.3d 417, 430, 173 Cal.Rptr. 917.)   To this end, overly literal construction of particular words and overrefined inquiries into their meaning should be eschewed where doing so conflicts with or would nullify the obvious legislative purpose behind the statute.  (See People v. Davis (1981) 29 Cal.3d 814, 828–829, 176 Cal.Rptr. 521, 633 P.2d 186;  People v. Hannon (1971) 5 Cal.3d 330, 335, 96 Cal.Rptr. 35, 486 P.2d 1235;  Cooperrider v. Civil Service Com. (1979) 97 Cal.App.3d 495, 502, 158 Cal.Rptr. 801;  People v. Weger (1967) 251 Cal.App.2d 584, 590, 59 Cal.Rptr. 661;  People v. Deibert (1953) 117 Cal.App.2d 410, 418, 256 P.2d 355.)   Literal interpretations must also be avoided when they lead to absurd results.  (Id.;  People v. Darling, supra, 230 Cal.App.2d 615, 620, 41 Cal.Rptr. 219.)

 In this case, we conclude that the phrase “the falsification of public records” includes within its intended meaning the offering of a false and forged will for recordation.   Any other interpretation would defeat the purpose of section 799, lead to absurd consequences, and cause inconsistency among the statutes aimed at protecting public records.

We begin with the definition of “falsification.”  (See Pearson v. State Social Welfare Board (1960) 54 Cal.2d 184, 194, 5 Cal.Rptr. 553, 353 P.2d 33.)   Black's Law Dictionary defines “falsify” as follows:  “To counterfeit or forge;  to make something false;  to give a false appearance to anything.   To make false by mutilation or addition;  to tamper with;  as, to falsify a record or document.”  (See Black's Law Dict. (4th ed. 1968) p. 726, col. 2, ¶ 2.)

Given the purpose of section 799, any conduct which has the effect of making public records false or untrue, including mutilation or addition, should come within the scope of the statute.   No doubt, section 799 applies to prosecutions under sections 6200 and 6201 of the Government Code.  (See 55 Cal.Jur.3d, Records and Recording Laws, § 15, p. 122–123.)  Section 6200 provides:  “Every officer having the custody of any record, map, or book, or of any paper or proceeding of any court, filed or deposited in any public office, or placed in his hands for any purpose, who is guilty of stealing, willfully destroying, mutilating, defacing, altering or falsifying, removing or secreting the whole or any part of such record, map, book, paper, or proceeding, or who permits any other person to do so, is punishable by imprisonment in the state prison for two, three, or four years.”  (Emphasis added.)  Section 6201 proscribes the same acts when committed by any person not an officer as defined in section 6200.4

 Sections 6200 and 6201 of the Government Code relate to the same subject matter as section 799.   Not only is there an identity of language among them, but also they clearly have a common overall purpose, i.e., to protect the integrity of public records.  (See People v. Tomalty (1910) 14 Cal.App. 224, 232, 111 P. 513.)   Consequently, these statutes are in pari materia and should be read together as one law and harmonized if possible.   (People v. Darling, supra, 230 Cal.App.2d 615, 620, 41 Cal.Rptr. 219;  see also Isobe v. Unemployment Ins. Appeals Bd. (1974) 12 Cal.3d 584, 590, 116 Cal.Rptr. 376, 526 P.2d 528.)

Thus, it is appropriate to construe “falsification” as used in section 799 to include all of the acts enumerated in section 6200 of the Government Code.   Such a construction is consistent with the definition in Black's Law Dictionary, quoted above.   Moreover, an interpretation of “falsification” that is broad enough to include all of the acts described in that section promotes the purpose of and harmonizes the statutes.   Each one of the acts listed can equally affect the veracity of a particular public record as well as destroy the integrity of the information that is collectively contained in public records.   For example, one who alters or destroys a public record without authorization impairs the truth previously embodied in and represented by that record.   Neither is less guilty of falsification than the other and therefore either act should trigger the application of section 799.   Since either act could elude detection indefinitely, the need for the exception set forth in section 799 becomes apparent.

Section 115 deals with the harm inherent in false public records because that statute “was designed to prevent the recordation of spurious documents knowingly offered for record.”  (Generes v. Justice Court, supra, 106 Cal.App.3d 678, 681–682, 165 Cal.Rptr. 222;  see People v. Baender (1924) 68 Cal.App. 49, 55, 228 P. 536.)   This section reflects the same legislative concern and shares the same ultimate purpose evident in sections 6200 and 6201 of the Government Code.5

 We find little or no difference between the filing of a false document in order to create a false public record, and falsifying a public record.   Both acts are functionally equivalent.   Just as the addition to, deletion from or destruction of a public record creates a false public record, so also does offering a false or forged instrument for recordation, if such instrument is in fact recorded.6

Section 115 proscribes only the offering and procuring false instruments for recordation.   The offense is complete when an instrument has been prepared so that it will have the effect of defrauding one who acts upon it as genuine.  (Generes v. Justice Court, supra, 106 Cal.App.3d 678, 682, 165 Cal.Rptr. 222.)   However, we believe that these words of apparent limitation should not preclude the application of section 799 if doing so defeats the purpose and intent of section 115.  (See ante, p. 359.)

The fact that section 115 proscribes acts technically different from “falsification” does not mean that we close our eyes to the underlying purpose of section 799, i.e., to prevent the creation of false public records.   Case law reveals that prosecutions under section 115 invariably arise after the false instruments have actually been recorded.  (See, e.g., People v. Horowitz (1945) 70 Cal.App.2d 675, 685, 688, 161 P.2d 833.)   In addition, it would be anomalous to find that section 115 does not also proscribe the actual filing of a false instrument.   Implicit in a prohibition against offering for recordation is a prohibition against the actual creation of a false public record.   In this case it is undisputed that an allegedly false will was filed for probate.  (See fn. 6, ante, p. 360.)

 In light of our discussion, and in order to effectuate and promote the purpose of section 799 (and also of those other statutes which evidence the Legislature's concern for the harm caused by false public records), we conclude that section 799 applies to both one who makes a false public record by mutilating, defacing, altering, etc. (Gov.Code, §§ 6200, 6201) and one who does so by causing a false or forged instrument to be recorded.  (§ 115.)

II.

Defendant argues that, by definition, he could not have falsified a “public record” because, allegedly, he falsified the will before it ever became a “public record.”

 Generally, when a penal statute is reasonably susceptible of two constructions, that construction which is more favorable to the defendant will be adopted.  (People v. Davis, supra, 29 Cal.3d 814, 828–829, 176 Cal.Rptr. 521, 633 P.2d 186;  People v. Ralph (1944) 24 Cal.2d 575, 581, 150 P.2d 401.)   However, this rule is not inflexible and courts decline to apply it where it leads to results that are contrary to legislative intent or that fail to prevent the harm that is identified in the statute or that override common sense and create palpable absurdities.  (In re Haines (1925) 195 Cal. 605, 611–622, 234 P. 883;  People v. Bradley (1983) 146 Cal.App.3d 721, 724, 194 Cal.Rptr. 549;  People v. Fair (1967) 254 Cal.App.2d 890, 893, 62 Cal.Rptr. 632;  see also, e.g., People v. Alday (1973) 10 Cal.3d 392, 395, 110 Cal.Rptr. 617, 515 P.2d 1169;  People v. Hallner (1954) 43 Cal.2d 715, 721, 277 P.2d 393;  Leslie Salt Co. v. San Francisco Bay Conservation etc. Com. (1984) 153 Cal.App.3d 605, 615, 200 Cal.Rptr. 575;  Southland Mechanical Constructors Corp. v. Nixen, supra, 119 Cal.App.3d 417, 430–431, 173 Cal.Rptr. 917;  Generes v. Justice Court, supra, 106 Cal.App.3d 678, 681–684, 165 Cal.Rptr. 222;  People v. Hacker Emporium, Inc. (1971) 15 Cal.App.3d 474, 477–480, 93 Cal.Rptr. 132.)   In this case, although the “falsification of public records” is reasonably susceptible of defendant's narrower interpretation and application, we decline to adopt it.   As previously noted, both a literal as well as an overly technical interpretation of statutory language should be avoided where it would nullify the intended purpose of the statute and/or lead to consequences which are inconsistent and incompatible with that purpose.

In this case, the defendant's interpretation would limit the effectiveness of the statute and create an absurd, uneven application.   There appears to be no reason why a person who causes a false will to be recorded (§ 115) should be protected from prosecution by a three-year statute of limitations which runs from the date of recordation, when a person who creates the same substantive falsification after the will is recorded faces prosecution forever.7  Both acts are equally difficult to detect.   Yet the perpetrator of one goes free if his act remains successfully concealed for three years.   Moreover, the penalty provided by the Legislature for filing a false will is greater than the penalty imposed on a non-officer who alters a will after its recordation.  (Cf. § 115 and § 18 with Gov.Code § 6201.)

 We conclude that the objective sought to be accomplished by the enactment of sections 799 and 115 of the Penal Code and sections 6200 and 6201 of the Government Code can best be given effect when the phrase “falsification of public records,” as used in section 799, refers to all conduct that can cause a false public record.   Such a construction harmonizes statutes aimed at keeping public records inviolate without forcing the words to assume an unreasonable meaning or connotation.

III.–VII.8

The judgment is affirmed.

FOOTNOTES

1.   Unless otherwise specified, all statutory references are to the Penal Code.

2.   Section 115 provides:  “Every person who knowingly procures or offers any false or forged instrument to be filed, registered, or recorded in any public office within this State, which instrument, if genuine, might be filed, or registered, or recorded under any law of this State or of the United States, is guilty of felony.”Section 799 provides:  “There is no limitation of time within which a prosecution for murder, the embezzlement of public moneys, a violation of Section 209, or the falsification of public records must be commenced.   Prosecution for murder may be commenced at any time after the death of the person killed.   Prosecution for the embezzlement of public money, a violation of Section 209, or the falsification of public records may be commenced at any time after the discovery of the crime.”

3.   This is also apparent from the fact that falsifying public records has been proscribed in this state since the mid-19th century.  (See In the Matter of John R. Corryell (1863) 22 Cal. 178;  former § 87;  and former §§ 113 and 114.)  (See fn. 4, post, p. 14.)

4.   Sections 6200 and 6201 of the Government Code were formerly sections 113 and 114 of the Penal Code.   They were derived from Statutes 1850, chapter 99, page 240, section 87, which related to the theft, destruction, falsification, or removal of public records, etc., by anyone.  (See Historical Note, 47 West's Ann.Pen.Code (1970) §§ 113, 114;  cases collected in West's Ann.Gov.Code (1980) following § 6200 under heading “In general.”)  Former sections 113 and 114 were repealed by Statutes 1943, chapter 134, page 1012, § 500008 and the subject matter reenacted as Government Code sections 6200 and 6201 by Statutes 1943, chapter 134, page 992, sections 6200 and 6201.  Sections 6200 and 6201 were amended by Statutes 1976, chapter 1139, page 5077, sections 57 and 58.  Section 6201 was amended by Statutes 1983, chapter 1092, page 5884, section 130.   Both the 1976 and 1983 amendments changed only the penalty for violating the statutes.

5.   We find support for this assertion in the fact that the contents of sections 6200 and 6201 of the Government Code and section 115 of the Penal Code were formerly three consecutively numbered statutes in the Penal Code.  (See fn. 4, ante, p. 359.)

6.   We are aware that in People v. Olson (1965) 232 Cal.App.2d 480, 42 Cal.Rptr. 760, the court found that the filing of a fraudulent “bid” in alleged violation of section 115 was not a falsification of public records within the meaning of section 799 because (1) the bid lacked the “character” and “dignity” of a public record;  and (2) the bid was neither forged nor changed after its original complete preparation.   (Id., at p. 487, 42 Cal.Rptr. 760.)However, we are not here concerned with what constitutes a “public record.”   Defendant conceded that a will becomes a public record after it is filed for probate.   He admitted changing the will after it was originally completed and also that he filed it.   Thus, defendant implicitly concedes that an allegedly false public record was created.   Our focus here, rather, is on what conduct comes within the meaning of “falsification,” as used in section 799.We note that in Olson, the court stated, “Falsification of public records refers to those writings which evidence the completed acts of public servants, such as the minutes of courts, public boards and committees, or those documents which under the law must be recorded by a public officer, or legal instruments, such as the wills of decedents.”   (232 Cal.App.2d at p. 487, 42 Cal.Rptr. 760.)   This dictum clearly supports our finding in this case.   Moreover, after the decision in Olson, the Legislature amended section 799.  (Stats. 1970, ch. 704, p. 1333, § 1.)   The Legislature is presumed to have knowledge of existing judicial decisions and to have enacted statutes in light of them.   (People v. Woods (1980) 112 Cal.App.3d 226, 230, 169 Cal.Rptr. 179.)   Since the Legislature amended section 799 without altering the language of the statute in light of Olson, “it may be presumed that such action (or inaction) was deliberate.”  (Ibid.)

7.   Defendant cites People v. Luse (1949) 95 Cal.App.2d 200, 212 P.2d 582, for the proposition that the three-year statute applies.   In Luse, the defendant was charged with forgery (§ 470) and filing false instruments (§ 115).   With respect to the violations of section 115, the court stated:  “[T]he law is settled that the statute of limitations commences to run from the date the document is filed for record and not from the date the instrument was drawn.  (People v. McPherson, 6 Cal.App. 266, 269 et seq. [91 P. 1098] ․”  (Id., at p. 203, 212 P.2d 582.)The Luse court assumed without analysis that the three-year statute applied.   We note that the Luse court explained and supported this assumption by citing People v. McPherson (1907) 6 Cal.App. 266, 91 P. 1098.   In McPherson, however, the court found only that for forgery (§ 470) the statute ran from the date that the forged instrument is uttered and not from a forged date on the instrument itself.  (Id., at pp. 269–270, 91 P. 1098.)   The court did not speak of section 115.   Moreover, McPherson no longer accurately states the law.   Section 800 now provides that, for forgery, the statute runs from the date a forgery is discovered, not from the date it is uttered.  (§ 800.)   Thus People v. Luse, supra, 95 Cal.App.2d 200, 212 P.2d 582, is no more compelling authority for applying the three-year statute of limitations in this case than the general provisions of section 800 itself.

8.   See footnote *, ante.

ROUSE, Associate Justice.

KLINE, P.J., and SMITH, J., concur.