California Criminal Jury Instructions (CALCRIM) (2017)
103. Reasonable DoubtDownload PDF
I will now explain the presumption of innocence and the People’s
burden of proof. The defendant[s] (has/have) pleaded not guilty to the
charge[s]. The fact that a criminal charge has been ﬁled against the
defendant[s] is not evidence that the charge is true. You must not be
biased against the defendant[s] just because (he/she/they) (has/have)
been arrested, charged with a crime, or brought to trial.
A defendant in a criminal case is presumed to be innocent. This
presumption requires that the People prove a defendant guilty beyond a
reasonable doubt. Whenever I tell you the People must prove something,
I mean they must prove it beyond a reasonable doubt [unless I
speciﬁcally tell you otherwise].
Proof beyond a reasonable doubt is proof that leaves you with an
abiding conviction that the charge is true. The evidence need not
eliminate all possible doubt because everything in life is open to some
possible or imaginary doubt.
In deciding whether the People have proved their case beyond a
reasonable doubt, you must impartially compare and consider all the
evidence that was received throughout the entire trial. Unless the
evidence proves the defendant[s] guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, (he/
she/they) (is/are) entitled to an acquittal and you must ﬁnd (him/her/
them) not guilty.
New January 2006; Revised June 2007
The court has a sua sponte duty to instruct on the presumption of innocence and
the state’s burden of proof before deliberations. (People v. Vann (1974) 12 Cal.3d
220, 225–227 [115 Cal.Rptr. 352, 524 P.2d 824]; People v. Soldavini (1941) 45
Cal.App.2d 460, 463 [114 P.2d 415]; People v. Phillips (1997) 59 Cal.App.4th 952,
956–958 [69 Cal.Rptr.2d 532].) This instruction is included in this section for the
convenience of judges who wish to instruct on this point during voir dire or before
If the court will be instructing that the prosecution must prove something by a
preponderance of the evidence, give the bracketed phrase “unless I speciﬁcally tell
• Instructional Requirements. Pen. Code, §§ 1096, 1096a; People v. Freeman
(1994) 8 Cal.4th 450, 503–504 [34 Cal.Rptr.2d 558, 882 P.2d 249]; Victor v.
Nebraska (1994) 511 U.S. 1, 16–17 [114 S.Ct. 1239, 127 L.Ed.2d 583];
Lisenbee v. Henry (9th Cir. 1999) 166 F.3d 997.
• Previous Version of CALCRIM 103 Upheld. People v. Reyes (2007) 151
Cal.App.4th 1491, 1496 [60 Cal.Rptr.3d 777].
• Reference to Elements Not Required. People v. Ramos (2008) 163
Cal.App.4th 1082, 1088–1089 [78 Cal.Rptr.3d 186].
5 Witkin & Epstein, California Criminal Law (3d ed. 2000) Criminal Trial, §§ 521,
4 Millman, Sevilla & Tarlow, California Criminal Defense Practice, Ch. 83,
Evidence, § 83.03, Ch. 85, Submission to Jury and Verdict, §§ 85.02[a][i],
85.04[a] (Matthew Bender).
This instruction is based directly on Penal Code section 1096. The primary changes
are a reordering of concepts and a deﬁnition of reasonable doubt stated in the
affirmative rather than in the negative. The instruction also refers to the jury’s duty
to impartially compare and consider all the evidence. (See Victor v. Nebraska
(1994) 511 U.S. 1, 16–17 [114 S.Ct. 1239, 127 L.Ed.2d 583].) The appellate courts
have urged the trial courts to exercise caution in modifying the language of section
1096 to avoid error in deﬁning reasonable doubt. (See People v. Freeman (1994) 8
Cal.4th 450, 503–504 [34 Cal.Rptr.2d 558, 882 P.2d 249]; People v. Garcia (1975)
54 Cal.App.3d 61 [126 Cal.Rptr. 275].) The instruction includes all the concepts
contained in section 1096 and substantially tracks the statutory language.
PRETRIAL CALCRIM No. 103