This is an interesting question and one that is often overlooked. When it comes to a criminal case in Los Angeles, the California criminal jury instructions are usually dictated by whatever charges are filed against the defendant. So, there's a whole list of jury instructions that the judges have to give in every single criminal case. Those would be designated as general criminal jury instructions in Los Angeles.
Jury Instructions are Specific to the Type of Charges Filed
There's also jury instructions that are specific to the charges that are filed because the jury needs to know what the elements are of each of the crimes, so those are definitely going to be given. Then there's that other set of jury instructions which the prosecution can argue for, and which the defense can argue for.
I've even majored instructions myself based on the law, of course, in order to fit whatever it is my client's criminal defense is in a case in Los Angeles. Once I see what the defense is and I see what law I'm going to want to hang my hat on in the closing arguments related to the criminal case, I'm going to try to either find a jury instruction that fits that argument, or I'm going to create one based on the law. Ultimately, the prosecutors will either agree to it or object.
If they object, then the judge will have to make the final decision on whether or not that jury instruction is given. Basically, what happens in a criminal case as it relates to jury instructions in Los Angeles is that the two sides sit down and see what jury instructions they can agree upon.
They tell the judge which ones they agree upon, and then they come up with a list of instructions that they don't agree upon. They give those to the judge – go through them one by one – and then the judge will rule on whether or not a particular jury instruction will be given to the jury.
Jury instructions are important in these criminal cases because they're the law – the foundation for which the charges in the case will be decided. So, there are some jury instructions, for example, tie goes to the defendant.
There's a jury instruction basically that says if you've got evidence on for the prosecution and you have evidence for the defense and they're both pretty much the same, you have to find the defendant not guilty. I use that jury instruction all the time in just about every criminal defense case that I try.
Reasonable Doubt Jury Instructions
There's also the reasonable doubt jury instruction that is given in every single case and that basically says that the jury has to have an abiding conviction of guilt. That means, years later when they look back at the verdict they have to say, I feel comfortable about it. I don't have any reasonable doubt. That's another one that I argue pretty much every time in every criminal jury trial that I do.
Then there are those jury instructions that we have to try to get that support our theory of the case – our defense, our defense strategy – so we're going to be citing law to the judge and making an argument – judge, here's the evidence in the case – here's the jury instruction that I want.
There's no other jury instruction that covers this and I must have it because I need to be able to argue what the state of the law is and we do not have an adequate jury instruction available to cover that.
So, these jury instructions are important. They're sometimes overlooked, but they're another element of a criminal case in Los Angeles – or anywhere in the country.
If you don't know your jury instructions, you don't know how to argue your jury instructions and you don't know how to get the jury instructions that you need to win your case, then you're not going to be successful in a criminal case.
Knowing the jury instructions – knowing which hurry instructions you're entitled to get – is crucial to get a not guilty verdict in a criminal case in Los Angeles. See related: Criminal Jury Instructions in Los Angeles County.