CALCRIM No. 3451. Present Mental Competence of Defendant

Judicial Council of California Criminal Jury Instructions (2023 edition)

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3451.Present Mental Competence of Defendant
You must decide whether the defendant is mentally competent to stand
trial. That is the only purpose of this proceeding. Do not consider
whether the defendant is guilty or not guilty of any crime or whether
(he/she) was sane or insane at the time that any alleged crime was
The defendant is mentally competent to stand trial if (he/she) can do all
of the following:
1. Understand the nature and purpose of the criminal proceedings
against (him/her);
2. Assist, in a rational manner, (his/her) attorney in presenting (his/
her) defense;
3. Understand (his/her) own status and condition in the criminal
The law presumes that a defendant is mentally competent. In order to
overcome this presumption, ((the defendant/the People) must prove/it
must be proved) that it is more likely than not that the defendant is now
mentally incompetent because of a (mental disorder/developmental
[A developmental disability is a disability that begins before a person is
18 years old and continues, or is expected to continue, for an indefinite
period of time. It must be a substantial handicap and does not include
other handicapping conditions that are solely physical in nature.
Examples of developmental disabilities include intellectual disability,
cerebral palsy, epilepsy, autism, and conditions closely related to
intellectual disability or requiring treatment similar to that required for
intellectually disabled individuals.]
New January 2006; Revised October 2021
Instructional Duty
The court has a sua sponte duty to instruct the jury on the standard for competence.
The party that seeks a finding of incompetence bears the burden of proof. If the
court raises the issue, neither party bears that burden. Choose the appropriate
language regarding which party bears the burden of proof in the paragraph that
begins with “The law presumes that . . . .” (People v. Skeirik (1991) 229
Cal.App.3d 444, 459-460 [280 Cal.Rptr. 175].)
Give CALCRIM No. 3550, Pre-Deliberation Instructions, and any other relevant
post-trial instructions, such as CALCRIM No. 222, Evidence, or CALCRIM No.
226, Witnesses.
Do not give CALCRIM No. 224, Circumstantial Evidence: Suffıciency of Evidence,
or CALCRIM No. 225, Circumstantial Evidence: Intent or Mental State. These
instructions have “no application when the standard of proof is preponderance of the
evidence.” (People v. Johnwell (2004) 121 Cal.App.4th 1267, 1274 [18 Cal.Rptr.3d
Instructional Requirements. Pen. Code, §§ 1367-1370.
Developmental Disability Defined. Pen. Code, § 1370.1(a)(1)(H).
Presumption of Competence. Pen. Code, § 1369(f).
Unanimous Verdict. Pen. Code, § 1369(f).
Mental Competence Defined. Pen. Code, § 1367(a); Dusky v. United States
(1960) 362 U.S. 402, 402 [80 S.Ct. 788, 4 L.Ed.2d 824]; People v. Jablonski
(2006) 37 Cal.4th 774, 807-808 [38 Cal.Rptr.3d 98, 126 P.3d 938].
Threshold for Section 1368 Hearing
A trial court must conduct a section 1368 hearing when there is substantial evidence
of incompetence. (People v. Cox (1978) 82 Cal.App.3d 221, 225-226 [147 Cal.Rptr.
73].) Substantial evidence raises a reasonable doubt about the defendant’s
competence to stand trial. (People v. Frye (1998) 18 Cal.4th 894, 951-952 [77
Cal.Rptr.2d 25, 959 P.2d 183].)
Defense Counsel May Seek Finding Contrary to Client’s Wishes
A section 1368 hearing is civil in nature. Since neither guilt nor innocence is at
issue, defense counsel must “advocate the position counsel perceives to be in the
client’s best interests even when that interest conflicts with the client’s stated
position [citation].” (People v. Stanley (1995) 10 Cal.4th 764, 804 [42 Cal.Rptr.2d
543, 897 P.2d 481].)
5 Witkin & Epstein, California Criminal Law (4th ed. 2012) Criminal Trial, § 824.
3 Millman, Sevilla & Tarlow, California Criminal Defense Practice, Ch. 64,
Suspension of Criminal Proceedings, §§ 64.01, 64.02 (Matthew Bender).
6 Millman, Sevilla & Tarlow, California Criminal Defense Practice, Ch. 124,
Jurisdiction and Disposition Hearings, § 124.04 (Matthew Bender).

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