Return to CALJIC Part 3-4 – Contents
F 4.35 n1 Unreasonable Mistake May Negate Specific Intent.
For a general intent crime, the defendant’s mistake of fact must be reasonable and bona fide. (See People v. Williams (92) 4 C4th 354, 360-61 [14 CR2d 441] [defendant must honestly and reasonably perceive facts differently from how they actually existed].) However, as to specific intent crimes, a genuinely held mistake of fact which disproves the specific intent required by the statute is sufficient to acquit the defendant, even though such belief was unreasonable as measured by the objective standard of a hypothetical reasonable man. (See People v. Howard (84) 36 C3d 852, 862 [206 CR 124].)
F 4.35 n2 Mistake Of Fact Resulting From Mental Defect.
There is a troublesome question as to whether an exception exists for cases where the mistake resulted from mental abnormality. One case approved the mistake of fact defense for a defendant whose mistake resulted from involuntary intoxication. (People v. Scott (83) 146 CA3d 823, 829-33 [194 CR 633].) But the same court subsequently held that a mistake which derives from mental disease cannot be the basis of a mistake of fact defense, at least where the charged crime is one of general intent. (People v. Gutierrez (86) 180 CA3d 1076, 1084 [225 CR 885].) The rationale is interesting. “A defendant who commits criminal acts while under a temporary delusion caused by involuntary intoxication is neither morally blameworthy nor a menace to the community and therefore may appropriately use the mistake-of-fact defense to obtain complete exoneration. The same cannot be said of the mentally ill defendant who may represent a continuing threat and who may be blameworthy to some degree, although perhaps not as much as a completely sane individual.” (Id. at pp. 1083-84.) Two other decisions question whether a mistake of fact defense can be utilized where the mistake was the produce of mental illness and/or voluntary intoxication. (People v. Geddes (91) 1 CA4th 448, 456 [1 CR2d 886]; People v. Raszler (85) 169 CA3d 1160, 1166 [215 CR 770].)
None of these restrictive decisions recognize the practical difficulty of restricting the mistake of fact defense to favored types of criminal defendants. A person laboring under a mistake of fact which disproves all criminal intent is, by definition, not guilty of any crime requiring either a general or specific intent. This is so regardless of whether he or she meets the judicially-promulgated qualifications for a mistake of fact defense.
F 4.35 n3 Mistake As To Ex-Felon Status.
See FORECITE F 12.43 n3.
F 4.35 n4 Mistake As To Immunity From Prosecution.
A mistaken but honest and reasonable belief by a defendant that he was immune from prosecution because he was working for a narcotics officer is a defense. (People v. Lucero (88) 203 CA3d 1011, 1015-18 [250 CR 354].) However, in People v. Costa (91) 1 CA4th 1201, 1208-11 [2 CR2d 720], the Court of Appeal held that this defense is not available to one who has an honest and reasonable belief that the person he is aiding and abetting in the commission of an otherwise criminal act is immune from prosecution. In reaching this conclusion, the Court of Appeal assumed, without citation to authority, that this defense is not available to an aider and abettor. However, this conclusion does not square with the established principle that a defendant’s culpability as an aider and abettor necessarily depends on the commission of the crime by the perpetrator. (People v. Croy (85) 41 C3d 1, 12, fn. 5 [221 CR 592]; People v. Patterson (89) 209 CA3d 610, 614 [257 CR 407]; see also People v. Taylor (74) 12 C3d 686, 698 [117 CR 70] [accused’s guilt may not be predicated on vicarious liability for the acts of a previously acquitted confederate].)
ALERT: People v. Superior Court (Sparks) REV GTD (9/17/2008, S164614) 2008 Cal. App. Unpub. LEXIS 4603: (1) Did principles of collateral estoppel, as applied in People v. Taylor (74) 12 C3d 686, preclude the prosecution from trying defendant for murder on a felony-murder theory after the actual killer had been acquitted of murder on such a theory? (2) Is Taylor still good law, or should that decision be overruled or disapproved?
F 4.35 n5 Mistake of Fact: Definition Of Good Faith.
The phrase “good faith” has a well-defined and generally understood meaning, being ordinarily used to described that state of mind denoting honesty of purpose, freedom from intention to defraud, and, generally speaking, means being faithful to one’s duty or obligation. (Mueller v. MacBan (76) 62 CA3d 258, 282 [132 CR 222].)
Mistake Of Fact: Reasonable Doubt Favors Defendant
*Add at end of CJ 4.35:
If you have a reasonable doubt as to whether a mistake of fact negated criminal intent you must find that such intent was not formed.
Points and Authorities
As with other defenses founded upon a factual contention which, if established, would tend to overcome or negate proof of an element of the charged offense such as identity (CJ 2.91), alibi (CJ 4.50), unconsciousness (CJ 4.31) or self-defense (CJ 5.15) the jury should be instructed that the defendant need only leave the jury with a reasonable doubt as to mistake of fact. (See People v. Wright (88) 45 C3d 1126, 1136-37 [248 CR 600] [approving CJ 2.91 and CJ 4.50 — which require acquittal if there is a reasonable doubt as to the defense]; see also EC 502; People v. Simon (95) 9 C4th 493, 500-01 [37 CR2d 278] [as to defense theories, the trial court is required to instruct on who has the burden and the nature of that burden]; People v. Tewksbury (76) 15 C3d 953, 963-64, fn 9 [127 CR 135] and FORECITE PG III(A).)
Failure to adequately instruct upon a defense or defense theory implicates the defendant’s state (Art. I, § 15 and § 16) and federal (6th and 14th Amendments) constitutional rights to trial by jury, compulsory process and due process. [See generally, FORECITE PG VII(C).]
People v. Williams DEPUBLISHED (92) 9 CA4th 209, 217 [11 CR2d 772] held that the defendant may obtain an instruction which directly relates the defense of mistake of fact to the prosecution’s burden to prove specific elements of the charge.
Reasonable Belief Standard Requires
Consideration Of A Reasonable Person
In Defendant’s Position
*Add to CJ 4.35:
In determining whether the defendant’s belief was reasonable, you must determine whether a reasonable person in the defendant’s situation would have had such belief. This means that you must consider all the circumstances in deciding whether [his] [her] belief was reasonable. These circumstances include [physical disabilities of the defendant] [intoxication of the defendant] [prior experiences of the defendant] [______other].
If you have a reasonable doubt whether a reasonable person in the defendant’s situation would have had such a belief, you must give the defendant the benefit of that doubt and find that the belief was reasonably held.
Points and Authorities
For general intent crimes, mistake of fact is a defense only if the defendant’s mistaken belief was reasonable. (See CJ 4.35.) The reasonableness of the defendant’s belief should be measured by an objective “reasonable person” standard. (See People v. Mathews (94) 25 CA4th 89, 99 [30 CR2d 330]; see also People v. Ochoa (93) 6 C4th 1199, 1204 [26 CR2d 23] [whether a reasonable person “would have been aware” of the risk involved is an objective standard].) This standard requires consideration of “a reasonable person in defendant’s position ….” (Ochoa, 6 C4th at 1205, emphasis in original; People v. Randle (2005) 35 C4th 987 [attorney general acknowledges that in determining objective reasonableness the "jury must consider all the facts and circumstances it might expect to operate on the defendant’s mind"].) Thus, any evidence which would impair the defendant’s ability to know the fact in issue such as intoxication (Ochoa) or physical disability (Mathews), etc., must be considered by the jury in determining whether a reasonable person in the defendant’s situation would have or should have known the fact in issue. (See also People v. Humphrey (96) 13 C4th 1073, 1083 [56 CR2d 142]; FORECITE F 5.12 h.)
Failure to adequately instruct the jury upon matters relating to proof of any element of the charge and/or the prosecution’s burden of proof thereon or failure to adequately instruct upon a defense or defense theory violates the defendant’s state (Art. I, § 15 and § 16) and federal (6th and 14th Amendments) constitutional rights to trial by jury, compulsory process and due process. [See generally, FORECITE PG VII.]
Constructive Knowledge: [See FORECITE F 1.20a, NOTES]
Willful Blindness Or Deliberate Ignorance (Federal/Model Penal Code Rule): [See FORECITE F 1.20a, NOTES]
Negation Of Knowledge By Intoxication Or Mental Impairment: [See FORECITE F 1.20b]
Impaired Physical Faculties – Amount of Caution: [See CJ 3.37]
Use Of The Term Situation Rather Than Position: In describing the required perspective for deciding whether the defendant’s conduct was objectively reasonable, the jury should be instructed to consider a reasonable person in the "defendant’s situation." (See e.g., REVISED ARIZONA JURY INSTRUCTIONS (CRIMINAL) RAJI inst. 4.04 [Justification For Self-Defense] (CLE State Bar of Arizona, 1996).) The phrase "in the defendant’s situation" should be used instead of "in the defendant’s position" because "lay jurors may consider "position" to be limited to location." (Ibid.)
Unlawful Sexual Intercourse: Mistake Of Fact As Defense
*Add to CJ 4.35:
Upon a trial of a charge of unlawful sexual intercourse, the defendant’s sexual intercourse with a person under the age of 18 years is not unlawful if the defendant had an honest and reasonable belief that the other person was 18 years or more of age. The burden is on the prosecution to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the sexual intercourse was unlawful, that is, that the defendant did not have an honest and reasonable belief that the other person was 18 years or more of age. If you have a reasonable doubt as to whether defendant honestly and reasonably believed that the other person was 18 years or more of age, then you must find the defendant not guilty.
Points and Authorities
The defendant’s honest and reasonable belief that the alleged victim was 18 years or more of age is a defense to a statutory rape charge per PC 261.5. (People v. Hernandez (64) 61 C2d 529, 535 [39 CR 361].) The above instruction sets forth this defense and the prosecution’s burden following an accepted CALJIC form. (See CJ 5.15 re: self-defense; see also, People v. Simon (95) 9 C4th 493, 500-01 [37 CR2d 278] [as to defense theories, the trial court is required to instruct on who has the burden and the nature of that burden]; EC 502; FORECITE F 4.45a; FORECITE F 5.15a.)
Failure to adequately instruct upon a defense or defense theory implicates the defendant’s state (Art. I, § 15 and § 16) and federal (6th and 14th Amendments) constitutional rights to trial by jury, compulsory process and due process. [See FORECITE PG VII.]
If there are specific factors present which relate to the reasonableness of defendant’s belief (e.g., intoxication, mental illness, physical disability), further instruction may be necessary. (See e.g., FORECITE F 7.32a.)
Mistake: Negation Of Knowledge Element
*Add to CJ 4.35:
See FORECITE F 1.20b.
Bigamy: Mistake Of Fact As Defense
*Re: CJ 4.35:
[See FORECITE F 4.023a.]