California Civil Jury Instructions (CACI)

211. Prior Conviction of a Felony

You have heard that a witness in this trial has been convicted of a felony. You were told about the conviction [only] to help you decide whether you should believe the witness. [You also may consider the evidence for the purpose of [specify].] You must not consider it for any other purpose.

New September 2003; Revised December 2012

Directions for Use

Include the word “only” unless the court has admitted the evidence for some other purpose, in which case, include the next-to-last sentence. For example, a prior alcohol-related conviction might be relevant to show conscious disregard if the claim involves conduct while under the influence.

Sources and Authority

  • Evidence Code section 788 provides for the circumstances under which evidence of a prior felony conviction may be used to attack a witness’s credibility. This section is most often invoked in criminal cases, but it may be used in civil cases as well.
  • The standards governing admissibility of prior convictions in civil cases are different from those in criminal proceedings. In Robbins v. Wong (1994) 27 Cal.App.4th 261, 273 [32 Cal.Rptr.2d 337], the court observed: “Given the significant distinctions between the rights enjoyed by criminal defendants and civil litigants, and the diminished level of prejudice attendant to felony impeachment in civil proceedings, it is not unreasonable to require different standards of admissibility in civil and criminal cases.” (Id. at p. 273.)

    In Robbins, the court concluded that article I, section 28(f) of the California Constitution, as well as any Supreme Court cases on this topic in the criminal arena, does not apply to civil cases. (Robbins, supra, 27 Cal.App.4th at p. 274.) However, the court did hold that the trial court “may utilize such decisions to formulate guidelines for the judicial weighing of probative value against prejudicial effect under section 352.” (Ibid.)

Secondary Sources

3 Witkin, California Evidence (4th ed. 2000) Presentation at Trial, §§ 292, 294, 295, 308

48 California Forms of Pleading and Practice, Ch. 551, Trial, § 551.123 (Matthew Bender)

1 Matthew Bender Practice Guide: California Trial and Post-Trial Civil Procedure, Ch. 11, Questioning Witnesses and Objections, 11.64