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Jury Instructions

In a California criminal DUI trial, the judge typically reads the jury instructions out loud and gives jurors a printed copy. Some judges give jury instructions before attorneys' closing arguments, and some issue instructions just before the jury begins to deliberate.

These instructions come from CALJIC, or California Jury Instructions - Criminal. Lawyers also are allowed to submit their own proposed jury instructions tailored to the specific facts of the case. A skilled California criminal DUI defense lawyer will submit instructions that will advance the client's case.

The judge and attorneys confer about instructions outside the presence of the jury. Often the prosecutor wants specific instructions to which the defense objects, and vice-versa. Each side argues those objections, and the judge then rules on whether or not the instructions should be included.

One critical jury instruction in a California criminal DUI trial is CALJIC No. 224 on circumstantial evidence. It reads as follows:

Circumstantial Evidence: Sufficiency of Evidence

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Before you may rely on circumstantial evidence to conclude that a fact necessary to find the defendant guilty has been proved, you must be convinced that the People have proved each fact essential to that conclusion beyond a reasonable doubt. Also, before you may rely on circumstantial evidence to find the defendant guilty, you must be convinced that the only reasonable conclusion supported by the circumstantial evidence is that the defendant is guilty. If you can draw two or more reasonable conclusions from the circumstantial evidence, and one of those reasonable conclusions points to innocence and another to guilt, you must accept the one that points to innocence. However, when considering circumstantial evidence, you must accept only reasonable conclusions and reject any that are unreasonable.

The instruction makes it clear that in a criminal case supported by circumstantial evidence, the prosecution must prove each element of the case beyond a reasonable doubt. According to this instruction, if circumstantial evidence points to more than one conclusion, the jury must accept the conclusion that points to the defendant's innocence.

A California criminal DUI defense lawyer will use this instruction to cast doubt on every piece of circumstantial evidence in the prosecutor's case. Criminal DUI defense lawyer will submit specific jury instructions that will prompt jurors to accept the defense version of circumstantial evidence to advance the client's cause.

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