California Criminal Jury Instructions (CALCRIM) (2017)

350. Character of Defendant

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C. CHARACTER EVIDENCE
350.Character of Defendant
You have heard character testimony that the defendant (is a
<insert character trait relevant to crime[s] committed>
person/ [or] has a good reputation for <insert character
trait relevant to crime[s] committed> in the community where (he/she)
lives or works).
Evidence of the defendant’s character for <insert character
trait relevant to crime[s] committed> can by itself create a reasonable
doubt [whether the defendant committed <insert name[s]
of alleged offenses[s] and count[s], e.g., battery, as charged in Count 1>].
However, evidence of the defendant’s good character may be countered
by evidence of (his/her) bad character for the same trait. You must
decide the meaning and importance of the character evidence.
[If the defendant’s character for certain traits has not been discussed
among those who know (him/her), you may assume that (his/her)
character for those traits is good.]
You may take that testimony into consideration along with all the other
evidence in deciding whether the People have proved that the defendant
is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
New January 2006; Revised August 2012
BENCH NOTES
Instructional Duty
The court has no sua sponte duty to give an instruction on defendant’s character;
however, it must be given on request. (People v. Bell (1875) 49 Cal. 485, 489–490
[jury should be instructed that evidence of good reputation should be weighed as
any other fact established and may be sufficient to create reasonable doubt of
guilt]; People v. Jones (1954) 42 Cal.2d 219, 222 [266 P.2d 38] [character evidence
may be sufficient to create reasonable doubt of guilt]; People v. Wilson (1913) 23
Cal.App. 513, 523–524 [138 P. 971] [court erred in failing to give requested
instruction or any instruction on character evidence].)
AUTHORITY
• Instructional Requirements. People v. Bell (1875) 49 Cal. 485, 489–490;
People v. Wilson (1913) 23 Cal.App. 513, 523–524 [138 P. 971]; People v.
Jones (1954) 42 Cal.2d 219, 222 [266 P.2d 38].
• Character Evidence Must Be Relevant to Offense Charged. People v. Taylor
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(1986) 180 Cal.App.3d 622, 629 [225 Cal.Rptr. 733].
• Admissibility. Evid. Code, §§ 1100–1102.
Secondary Sources
1 Witkin, California Evidence (4th ed. 2000) Circumstantial Evidence, § 53.
4Millman, Sevilla & Tarlow, California Criminal Defense Practice, Ch. 82,
Witnesses, § 82.22[3][d], [e][ii], Ch. 83, Evidence, § 83.12[1] (Matthew Bender).
RELATED ISSUES
No Discussion of Character Is Evidence of Good Character
The fact that the defendant’s character or reputation has not been discussed or
questioned among those who know him or her is evidence of the defendant’s good
character and reputation. (People v. Castillo (1935) 5 Cal.App.2d 194, 198 [42 P.2d
682].) However, the defendant must have resided in the community for a sufficient
period of time and become acquainted with the community in order for his or her
character to have become known and for some sort of reputation to have been
established. (See Evid. Code, § 1324 [reputation may be shown in the community
where defendant resides and in a group with which he or she habitually associates];
see also People v. Pauli (1922) 58 Cal.App. 594, 596 [209 P. 88] [witness’s
testimony about defendant’s good reputation in community was inappropriate where
defendant was a stranger in the community, working for a single employer for a
few months, going about little, and forming no associations].)
Business Community
The community for purposes of reputation evidence may also be the defendant’s
business community and associates. (People v. Cobb (1955) 45 Cal.2d 158, 163
[287 P.2d 752].)
CALCRIM No. 350 EVIDENCE
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