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Name: People v. Hanna
Case #: C067178
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 3 DCA
Opinion Date: 07/31/2013

Trial court did not commit prejudicial error by failing to instruct on mistake-of-fact defense where defendant was charged with an attempted violation of Penal Code section 288, subdivision (a) and he believed the minor victim was 18. A jury concluded that Hanna arranged a meeting with a minor he met on MySpace in order to engage in lewd and lascivious behavior, and convicted him of multiple offenses. At trial, the court had refused to instruct the jury on good faith mistake-of-fact regarding the victim’s age, as there was insufficient evidence that Hanna reasonably and actually believed that the victim was 18. On appeal, Hanna argued that failure to give this instruction was prejudicial error. The appellate court concluded that the mistake-of-fact defense does apply to an attempt to commit a lewd act on a child under 14, and that there was sufficient evidence here to justify instructing on the defense. However, the court’s omission of the instruction was not prejudicial error. The evidence was strong that Hanna knew the victim was 13, as he knew she was in middle school and knew that she had lied about her age on MySpace to meet older men. It was not reasonably probable that a jury instruction on the mistake-of-fact defense would have changed the verdict under these circumstances.