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JURY INSTRUCTIONS ON ELEMENTS OF AN OFFENSE

JURY INSTRUCTIONS ON ELEMENTS OF AN OFFENSE

The prosecution has the burden of proving all the elements of an offense with which a defendant is being charged. In accordance with this burden of proof, a trial court is required to specifically instruct a jury on all the elements of the offense. A jury instruction is defective if it fails to set forth all the elements of the offense.

In a trial court’s instruction to a jury on the elements of an offense, the trial court cannot merely refer to an indictment or an information. The trial court’s charge must instruct the jury as to the elements that are pleaded in the indictment or the information. The trial court cannot expand on the allegations in the indictment or the information. If the indictment or the information fails to set forth an essential element of the offense, the trial court cannot supply the element in its charge to the jury. Also, the trial court cannot charge the jury regarding an offense that is different or that is greater than the offense with which a defendant is being charged.

If a defendant is convicted on a theory that is not alleged in an indictment or an information, the defendant’s due process rights may be violated. If the theory is not alleged in the indictment or the information, the defendant is not given notice of the theory and is not given an opportunity to defend the theory.

If an indictment or an information alleges different criminal acts in the same count, a defendant is entitled to require the prosecution to elect upon which act the prosecution will proceed. If the defendant fails to require the prosecution to elect the act, the defendant’s right to a unanimous verdict may be violated.

If a trial court’s instruction to a jury requires the prosecution to prove more facts than those that are alleged in an indictment or an information, the prosecution must prove those additional facts beyond a reasonable doubt. The additional facts are required to be proven by the prosecution if the instruction requires the jury to find the facts to be true before it convicts a defendant. If the instruction includes additional facts, the prosecution must object to the instruction, must request a modification of the instruction, or must prove the additional facts.

When a trial court instructs a jury on the required mental state for an offense, the trial court should define the particular mental state that is required for the offense, that is, whether the mental state is intentional, knowing, reckless, or criminal negligence. If the required mental state only concerns a defendant’s conduct or circumstances surrounding the conduct, the instruction should only include language regarding the defendant’s conduct or the circumstances. It should not include language regarding the result of the defendant’s conduct. If the required mental state only concerns the result of the defendant’s conduct, the instruction should not include language on the defendant’s conduct or the circumstances.

Copyright 2013 LexisNexis, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc.

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