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People v. Shirley

Supreme Court of California
360 P.2d 33 (1961)


Tressie Shirley (defendant) received welfare aid for herself and her children. Shirley was told repeatedly that she was obligated to keep the county’s welfare department updated on Shirley’s family status or income. Shirley told a social worker that her only income was her allotment from the welfare department, as well as earnings from two of her children, and that there were no other adults living in the home. Shirley was again told to keep the department informed about income and household members, and Shirley agreed to report any changes. The social worker visited Shirley’s home six months later and found Shirley’s husband there. Shortly thereafter, investigators from the district attorney’s office went to Shirley’s home and found her husband in bed. Shirley told the investigators that her husband had been living in her home for six months and that her husband had contributed about $800 during that time, though he was not the father of her children. Shirley admitted to knowing that she should have reported these changes to the welfare department. The department determined that Shirley had been overpaid $1,811 as a result of the unreported changes. Shirley was charged with grand theft by false pretenses. At trial, the jury was instructed that, under § 1508 of the California Welfare and Institutions Code, a stepfather’s income should be considered when computing the welfare amount to be dispersed to a mother and her needy children. The jury was also told by the trial court that a man living in a home and acting as a mother’s spouse had the same obligations as that of a stepfather to the mother and her children. Shirley was convicted. The trial court issued an order denying a new trial, and Shirley appealed.

Rule of Law


Holding and Reasoning (Gibson, C.J.)


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