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Name: People v. Bejarano
Case #: E046719
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 4 DCA
Division: 2
Opinion Date: 12/21/2009
Summary

Severe depression is not available as a defense for the crime of failing to register as a sex offender because Penal Code section 290.012 is a general intent crime. After complying with sex-offender registration for 17 years, in 2006, appellant did not register as required. Several months after his birthday that year, appellant made an appointment to register, but when he did not show up, police arrested him for failure to register. At trial, appellant’s defense was that he was suffering from severe depression. He presented testimony from a forensic psychologist on this point, but the trial court would not let the witness testify as to whether appellant could not form the requisite intent due to his severe depression. The Court of Appeal found no error in the curtailment of the testimony since an expert cannot opine as to whether a defendant actually forms a requisite intent because such testimony invades the province of the jury. But more importantly, this would not have been a defense to the crime. Failure to register is a general intent crime and evidence of a defendant’s mental state is inadmissible to prove the absence of general intent. Further, since depression did not qualify a defense, the court was not required to instruct the jury on this point. People v. Sorden (2005) 31 Cal.4th 65 does not dictate otherwise because that opinion recognizes that only the most disabling of conditions, such as severe Alzheimer’s or amnesia, may negate the willfulness element.