California Criminal Jury Instructions (CALCRIM) (2017)

2860. Defense: Good Faith Belief Conduct Legal

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E. DEFENSES
2860.Defense: Good Faith Belief Conduct Legal
The defendant did not voluntarily and intentionally violate a legal duty
known to (him/her) if (he/she) had a good faith but mistaken
understanding of what (his/her) duty was under the law. This is so even
if the mistaken understanding was due to (his/her) own negligence. If
the defendant actually believed that (he/she) was meeting the
requirements of the tax laws, (his/her) belief did not have to be
reasonable.
[A person’s (opinion that the tax laws violate his or her constitutional
rights/ [or] disagreement with the government’s tax collection system)
does not constitute a good faith misunderstanding of the law.]
The People have the burden of proving beyond a reasonable doubt that
the defendant did not act in good faith. If the People have not met this
burden, you must find the defendant not guilty of the crime[s] charged
[in Count[s] ] [or the lesser offense[s] of <insert
description of lesser offense[s]>].
New January 2006
BENCH NOTES
Instructional Duty
The defendant may assert as a defense a good faith belief that his or her conduct
was legal. (People v. Hagen (1998) 19 Cal.4th 652, 660 [80 Cal.Rptr.2d 24, 967
P.2d 563]; Cheek v. United States (1991) 498 U.S. 192, 201 [111 S.Ct. 604, 112
L.Ed.2d 617].) This includes asserting that the defendant was ignorant of the law or
mistaken in his or her interpretation of it. (People v. Hagen, supra, 19 Cal.4th at p.
660; Cheek v. United States, supra, 498 U.S. at p. 201.) Further, the defendant’s
belief need not be objectively reasonable. (People v. Hagen, supra, 19 Cal.4th at p.
660; Cheek v. United States, supra, 498 U.S. at p. 201.) If there is sufficient
evidence to raise a reasonable doubt about a good faith belief, the court has a sua
sponte duty to give this instruction.
The good faith belief defense does not apply to a “tax protestor,” who asserts that
the tax law is illegal or unconstitutional. (Cheek v. United States (1991) 498 U.S.
192, 206 [111 S.Ct. 604, 112 L.Ed.2d 617]; United States v. Bressler (7th Cir.
1985) 772 F.2d 287, 291.) On the other hand, “[w]e must remind ourselves here
that the good-faith defense need not be rational, if there is sufficient evidence from
which a reasonable jury could conclude that even irrational beliefs were truly
held.” (United States v. Mann (10th Cir. 1989) 884 F.2d 532, 536–537 [reversing
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for failure to properly instruct on good faith defense where defendant asserted that
the tax laws were invalid, that he believed he did not fall under them, and that the
system was maintained by “Satan’s little helpers”]; see also Cheek v. United States,
supra, 498 U.S. at p. 203 [preventing jury from considering good faith defense
based on “irrational belief” would raise constitutional problems].) Thus, while the
court may exclude evidence that the defendant disagreed with the tax laws (Cheek
v. United States, supra, 498 U.S. at p. 206), the court should use caution. If the
court concludes that there is sufficient basis to instruct on the good faith defense
but evidence that the defendant actions were based on a disagreement with the tax
system has also been admitted, the court may give the bracketed sentence that
begins with “A person’s opinion . . . .”
AUTHORITY
• Good Faith Belief Defense. People v. Hagen (1998) 19 Cal.4th 652, 660 [80
Cal.Rptr.2d 24, 967 P.2d 563]; Cheek v. United States (1991) 498 U.S. 192, 201
[111 S.Ct. 604, 112 L.Ed.2d 617]; see Federal Jury Practice and Instructions,
Criminal (5th ed.) § 67.25.
• Disagreement With Law Is Not Good Faith Misunderstanding. Cheek v. United
States (1991) 498 U.S. 192, 206 [111 S.Ct. 604, 112 L.Ed.2d 617]; United
States v. Bressler (7th Cir. 1985) 772 F.2d 287, 291.
• Belief Need Not Be Rational. Cheek v. United States (1991) 498 U.S. 192,
203 [111 S.Ct. 604, 112 L.Ed.2d 617]; United States v. Mann (10th Cir. 1989)
884 F.2d 532, 536–537.
Secondary Sources
2 Witkin & Epstein, California Criminal Law (3d ed. 2000) Crimes Against
Governmental Authority, § 128.
CALCRIM No. 2860 TAX CRIMES
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