CALCRIM No. 103. Reasonable Doubt

Judicial Council of California Criminal Jury Instructions (2023 edition)

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103.Reasonable Doubt
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
Instructional Duty
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
testimony begins.
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
you otherwise.”
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].
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.
5 Witkin & Epstein, California Criminal Law (4th ed. 2012) Criminal Trial, §§ 624,
716-717, 720-722.
4 Millman, Sevilla & Tarlow, California Criminal Defense Practice, Ch. 83,
Evidence, § 83.03[1], Ch. 85, Submission to Jury and Verdict, §§ 85.02[2][a][i],
85.04[2][a] (Matthew Bender).

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