Criminal Law

370. Motive

The People are not required to prove that the defendant had a motive to commit (any of the crimes/the crime) charged. In reaching your verdict you may, however, consider whether the defendant had a motive.

Having a motive may be a factor tending to show that the defendant is guilty. Not having a motive may be a factor tending to show the defendant is not guilty.

Bench Notes

Instructional Duty

The court does not have a sua sponte duty to instruct on motive. (People v. Romo (1975) 14 Cal.3d 189, 196 [121 Cal.Rptr. 111, 534 P.2d 1015] [not error to refuse instruction on motive].)

Do not give this instruction if motive is an element of the crime charged. (See, e.g., CALCRIM No. 1122, Annoying or Molesting a Child)


Instructional Requirements. People v. Romo (1975) 14 Cal.3d 189, 195-196 [121 Cal.Rptr. 111, 534 P.2d 1015]; People v. Young (1970) 9 Cal.App.3d 106, 110 [87 Cal.Rptr. 767].

Jury May Consider Motive. People v. Brown (1900) 130 Cal. 591, 594 [62 P. 1072]; People v. Gonzales (1948) 87 Cal.App.2d 867, 877- 878 [198 P.2d 81].

Proof of Presence or Absence of Motive Not Required. People v.

Daly (1992) 8 Cal.App.4th 47, 59 [10 Cal.Rptr.2d 21]; People v. Scheer (1998) 68 Cal.App.4th 1009, 1017-1018 [80 Cal.Rptr.2d 676].

Secondary Sources

1 Witkin & Epstein, California Criminal Law (3d ed. 2000) Elements, § 4; Defenses, § 249.

1 Witkin, California Evidence (4th ed. 2000) Circumstantial Evidence, § 119.

4 Millman, Sevilla & Tarlow, California Criminal Defense Practice, Ch. 85, Submission to Jury and Verdict, § 85.03[2][c] (Matthew Bender).

Related Issues

Entrapment Defense

The court should not instruct on motive if the defendant admits his guilt for the substantive crime and presents an entrapment defense, because in that instance his or her commission of the crime would not be an issue and motive would be irrelevant. (See People v. Martinez (1984) 157 Cal.App.3d 660, 669 [203 Cal.Rptr. 833]; People v. Lee (1990) 219 Cal.App.3d 829, 841 [268 Cal.Rptr. 595].)

No Conflict With Other Instructions

Motive, intent, and malice are separate and distinct mental states. Giving a motive instruction does not conflict with intent and malice instructions. (People v. Hillhouse (2002) 27 Cal.4th 469, 503-504 [117 Cal.Rptr.2d 45, 40 P.3d 754] [motive describes the reason a person chooses to commit a crime]; People v. Snead (1993) 20 Cal.App.4th 1088, 1098 [24 Cal.Rptr.2d 922].) Similarly, a motive instruction that focuses on guilt does not conflict with a special circumstance instruction, which the jury is directed to find true or not true. (People v. Heishman (1988) 45 Cal.3d 147, 178 [246 Cal.Rptr. 673, 753 P.2d 629] [defendant argued motive to prevent victim from testifying was at core of special circumstance].) A torture murder instruction that requires an intent to cause cruel pain or suffering for the purpose of revenge, extortion, or any sadistic purpose also does not conflict with the motive instruction. The torture murder instruction does not elevate motive to the status of an element of the crime. It simply makes explicit the treatment of motive as an element of proof in torture murder cases. (People v. Lynn (1984) 159 Cal.App.3d 715, 727-728 [206 Cal.Rptr. 181].)

(New January 2006)