CALCRIM No. 251. Union of Act and Intent: Specific Intent or Mental State
Judicial Council of California Criminal Jury Instructions (2017 edition)Download PDF
251.Union of Act and Intent: Speciﬁc Intent or Mental State
The crime[s] [(and/or) other allegation[s]] charged in this case require
proof of the union, or joint operation, of act and wrongful intent.
For you to ﬁnd a person guilty of the crime[s] (in this case/ of
<insert name[s] of alleged offense[s] and count[s], e.g.,
burglary, as charged in Count 1> [or to ﬁnd the allegation[s] of
<insert name[s] of enhancement[s]> true]), that person
must not only intentionally commit the prohibited act [or intentionally
fail to do the required act], but must do so with a speciﬁc (intent/ [and/
or] mental state). The act and the speciﬁc (intent/ [and/or] mental state)
required are explained in the instruction for that crime [or allegation].
<Repeat next paragraph as needed>
[The speciﬁc (intent/ [and/or] mental state) required for the crime of
<insert name[s] of alleged offense[s] e.g., burglary> is
<insert speciﬁc intent>.]
New January 2006; Revised August 2006, June 2007, April 2008
The court has a sua sponte duty to instruct on the union of act and speciﬁc intent
or mental state. (People v. Alvarez (1996) 14 Cal.4th 155, 220 [58 Cal.Rptr.2d 385,
926 P.2d 365].) This instruction must be given if the crime requires a speciﬁc
mental state, such as knowledge or malice, even if the crime is classiﬁed as a
general intent offense.
Do not give this instruction if the case involves only general-intent offenses that do
not require any speciﬁc mental state. (See CALCRIM No. 250, Union of Act and
Intent: General Intent.) If the case involves both offenses requiring a speciﬁc intent
or mental state and offenses that do not, the court may give CALCRIM No. 252,
Union of Act and Intent: General and Speciﬁc Intent Together, in place of this
The court should specify for the jury which offenses are speciﬁc-intent offenses by
inserting the names of the offenses and count numbers where indicated in the
second paragraph of the instruction. (See People v. Hill (1967) 67 Cal.2d 105, 118
[60 Cal.Rptr. 234, 429 P.2d 586].) The court may use the ﬁnal optional paragraph if
it deems it helpful, particularly in cases with multiple counts.
If the defendant is charged with aiding and abetting or conspiracy to commit a
general-intent offense, the court must instruct on the speciﬁc intent required for
aiding and abetting or conspiracy. (See People v. McCoy (2001) 25 Cal.4th 1111,
1117–1118 [108 Cal.Rptr.2d 188, 24 P.3d 1210]; People v. Bernhardt (1963) 222
Cal.App.2d 567, 586–587 [35 Cal.Rptr. 401].)
This instruction does not apply to criminal negligence or strict liability. If the
defendant is also charged with a criminal negligence or strict liability offense, the
court should give the appropriate Union of Act and Intent instruction: CALCRIM
No. 253, Union of Act and Intent: Criminal Negligence, or CALCRIM No. 254,
Union of Act and Intent: Strict-Liability Crime.
Evidence of voluntary intoxication or mental impairment may be admitted to show
that the defendant did not form the required mental state. (See People v. Ricardi
(1992) 9 Cal.App.4th 1427, 1432 [12 Cal.Rptr.2d 364].) The court has no sua
sponte duty to instruct on these defenses; however, the trial court must give these
instructions on request if supported by the evidence. (People v. Saille (1991) 54
Cal.3d 1103, 1119 [2 Cal.Rptr.2d 364, 820 P.2d 588]; see Defenses and Insanity,
CALCRIM No. 3400 et seq.)
• Statutory Authority. Pen. Code, § 20; see also Evid. Code, §§ 665, 668.
•Instructional Requirements. People v. Alvarez (1996) 14 Cal.4th 155, 220 [58
Cal.Rptr.2d 385, 926 P.2d 365]; People v. Ford (1964) 60 Cal.2d 772, 792–793
[36 Cal.Rptr. 620, 388 P.2d 892]; People v. Turner (1971) 22 Cal.App.3d 174,
184 [99 Cal.Rptr. 186]; People v. Hill (1967) 67 Cal.2d 105, 117 [60 Cal.Rptr.
234, 429 P.2d 586].
1 Witkin & Epstein, California Criminal Law (3d ed. 2000) Elements, §§ 1–6.
3Millman, Sevilla & Tarlow, California Criminal Defense Practice, Ch. 73,
Defenses and Justiﬁcations, § 73.03 (Matthew Bender).
4 Millman, Sevilla & Tarlow, California Criminal Defense Practice, Ch. 85,
Submission to Jury and Verdict, § 85.03[e] (Matthew Bender).
6 Millman, Sevilla & Tarlow, California Criminal Defense Practice, Ch. 140,
Challenges to Crimes, § 140.02,  (Matthew Bender).
POST-TRIAL: INTRODUCTORY CALCRIM No. 251
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