The Volokh Conspiracy

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Volokh Conspiracy

Just Pay the Traffic Ticket, Dude …

... rather than committing felony forgery.


From People v. Shah (Cal. Ct. App. July 22):

After receiving a speeding citation, defendant Dr. Nickesh Pravin Shah duped an employee into signing a letter falsely stating that defendant was responding to a medical emergency at the time of the traffic stop. Defendant's attorney eventually entered the letter in evidence at his traffic trial.

After the traffic trial, defendant was charged with violating Penal Code sections 132 and 134 by preparing and offering the forged letter as false evidence. A jury found defendant guilty of both offenses, and the trial court suspended imposition of sentence and placed defendant on 36 months'] probation….

In early 2013, defendant accepted through a staffing agency a temporary position as a physician at a health clinic. The clinic was small, with just two physicians and a staff of approximately eight to nine people. The clinic hired defendant to care for the patients of one of the doctors who was on leave.

On the morning of April 3, 2013, at approximately 10:00 a.m., defendant was driving to work when a California Highway Patrol (CHP) officer stopped him for speeding. At the time of the stop, defendant was late for work, which was not unusual.

When informed of the reason for the stop, defendant told the officer that he was en route to a medical emergency and needed to be there within the next 10 minutes. The officer asked defendant the nature of the medical emergency, and defendant responded, "A gall bladder." Defendant told the officer he would be performing surgery on the patient.

The officer asked defendant if there was someone who could confirm this information. Defendant gave the officer the name and telephone number of a supervisor at the clinic. Defendant said she would know if there was an emergency. The officer called the number and spoke to the supervisor. The supervisor denied there was an emergency and told the officer that defendant "was just late to see his regularly scheduled patients." {This was not the first time that defendant falsely claimed he was responding to an emergency to avoid a speeding ticket. At trial, a San Francisco police officer testified that when he stopped defendant for speeding in 2010, defendant told the officer he was "on an emergency call" heading to the University of California, San Francisco, Medical Center. The officer asked for proof, but defendant was unable to substantiate the emergency.}

When the officer relayed this information, defendant responded that the supervisor must be working on the other side of the facility and unaware of the emergency. The officer, unpersuaded, cited defendant for speeding, but suggested that the district attorney might dismiss the citation if defendant could provide documentation showing that he was, in fact, responding to an emergency.

A couple of weeks later, defendant had his office manager sign a letter relating to the traffic stop. The letter stated: "This letter is to confirm that [defendant] was on his way to an emergency in order to attend to a patient at this facility on April 3rd, 2013[,] at 10:00 a.m. with severe abdominal pain and concern for a gall bladder infection." The letter was dated April 16, 2013. Defendant, through his attorney, subsequently offered the letter in evidence at the trial on his speeding citation. The traffic court judge nevertheless found defendant guilty.

After the traffic trial, the prosecutor filed a felony complaint against defendant charging him with violations of Penal Code sections 132 and 134 for preparing and offering false and fraudulent evidence at the traffic trial…. The jury found defendant guilty of violating sections 132 and 134.