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CALCRIM 220. Reasonable Doubt

220. Reasonable Doubt

The fact that a criminal charge has been filed against the
defendant[s] is not evidence that the charge is true. You must not
be biased against the defendant[s] just because (he/she/they) (has/
have) been arrested, charged with a crime, or brought to trial.

A defendant in a criminal case is presumed to be innocent. This
presumption requires that the People prove a defendant guilty
beyond a reasonable doubt. Whenever I tell you the People must
prove something, I mean they must prove it beyond a reasonable
doubt [unless I specifically tell you otherwise].

Proof beyond a reasonable doubt is proof that leaves you with an
abiding conviction that the charge is true. The evidence need not
eliminate all possible doubt because everything in life is open to
some possible or imaginary doubt.

In deciding whether the People have proved their case beyond a
reasonable doubt, you must impartially compare and consider all
the evidence that was received throughout the entire trial. Unless
the evidence proves the defendant[s] guilty beyond a reasonable
doubt, (he/she/they) (is/are) entitled to an acquittal and you must
find (him/her/them) not guilty.

New January 2006; Revised August 2006


Instructional Duty
The court has a sua sponte duty to instruct on the presumption of innocence
and the state’s burden of proof. (People v. Vann (1974) 12 Cal.3d 220,
225–227 [115 Cal.Rptr. 352, 524 P.2d 824]; People v. Soldavini (1941) 45
Cal.App.2d 460, 463 [114 P.2d 415]; People v. Phillips (1997) 59
Cal.App.4th 952, 956–958 [69 Cal.Rptr.2d 532].)
If the court will be instructing that the prosecution has a different burden of
proof, give the bracketed phrase “unless I specifically tell you otherwise.”


• Instructional Requirements. Pen. Code, §§ 1096, 1096a; People v.
Freeman (1994) 8 Cal.4th 450, 503–504 [34 Cal.Rptr.2d 558, 882 P.2d
249]; Victor v. Nebraska (1994) 511 U.S. 1, 16–17 [114 S.Ct. 1239, 127
47 (Pub. 1284) L.Ed.2d 583]; Lisenbee v. Henry (9th Cir. 1999) 166 F.3d 997, 999.
• This Instruction Upheld. People v. Ramos (2008) 163 Cal.App.4th
1082, 1088–1089 [78 Cal.Rptr.3d 186].
• This Instruction Does Not Suggest That Bias Against Defendant Is
Permissible. People v. Ibarra (2007) 156 Cal.App.4th 1174, 1185–1186
[67 Cal.Rptr.3d 871].
Secondary Sources
5 Witkin & Epstein, California Criminal Law (3d ed. 2000) Criminal Trial,
§§ 521, 637, 640.
4 Millman, Sevilla & Tarlow, California Criminal Defense Practice, Ch. 83,
Evidence, § 83.03[1], Ch. 85, Submission to Jury and Verdict,
§§ 85.02[1A][a], [2][a][i], 85.04[2][a] (Matthew Bender).


This instruction is based directly on Penal Code section 1096. The primary
changes are a reordering of concepts and a definition of reasonable doubt
stated in the affirmative rather than in the negative. The instruction also
refers to the jury’s duty to impartially compare and consider all the evidence.
(See Victor v. Nebraska (1994) 511 U.S. 1, 16–17 [114 S.Ct. 1239, 127
L.Ed.2d 583].) The appellate courts have urged the trial courts to exercise
caution in modifying the language of section 1096 to avoid error in defining
reasonable doubt. (See People v. Freeman (1994) 8 Cal.4th 450, 503–504 [34
Cal.Rptr.2d 558, 882 P.2d 249]; People v. Garcia (1975) 54 Cal.App.3d 61,
63 [126 Cal.Rptr. 275].) The instruction includes all the concepts contained
in section 1096 and substantially tracks the statutory language. For an
alternate view of instructing on reasonable doubt, see Committee on Standard
Jury Instructions—Criminal, Minority Report to CALJIC “Reasonable
Doubt” Report, in Alternative Definitions of Reasonable Doubt: A Report to
the California Legislature (May 22, 1987; repr., San Francisco: Daily Journal,
1987) pp. 51–53.


Pinpoint Instruction on Reasonable Doubt

A defendant is entitled, on request, to a nonargumentative instruction that
directs attention to the defense’s theory of the case and relates it to the
state’s burden of proof. (People v. Sears (1970) 2 Cal.3d 180, 190 [84
Cal.Rptr. 711, 465 P.2d 847] [error to deny requested instruction relating
defense evidence to the element of premeditation and deliberation].) Such an
instruction is sometimes called a pinpoint instruction. “What is pinpointed is
not specific evidence as such, but the theory of the defendant’s case. It is the
specific evidence on which the theory of the defense ‘focuses’ which is
related to reasonable doubt.” (People v. Adrian (1982) 135 Cal.App.3d 335,
338 [185 Cal.Rptr. 506] [court erred in refusing to give requested instruction
relating self-defense to burden of proof]; see also People v. Granados (1957)
49 Cal.2d 490, 496 [319 P.2d 346] [error to refuse instruction relating
reasonable doubt to commission of felony in felony-murder case]; People v.
Brown (1984) 152 Cal.App.3d 674, 677–678 [199 Cal.Rptr. 680] [error to
refuse instruction relating reasonable doubt to identification].)

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