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Name: People v. Hernandez
Case #: S117651
Court: CA Supreme Court
District CalSup
Opinion Date: 08/09/2004

A court need not bifurcate a trial on a gang enhancement, but should give a limiting instruction upon request. The Supreme Court held that the trial court acted within its discretion in refusing to bifurcate trial of the gang enhancement from the substantive offense, and further held that because the defendants did not request a limiting instruction regarding evidence that was not cross-admissible for the enhancement and the substantive charge in this case, the court did not fail in erring to give such an instruction. The Supreme Court acknowledged that in some situations a trial court should bifurcate a gang enhancement, for instance where the evidence necessary to prove the enhancement is extraordinarily prejudicial with little relevance to guilt. However, where only some of the evidence needed to prove the enhancement is not admissible as to the substantive offense, the trial court may exercise its discretion to deny bifurcation. Further, a trial court has no sua sponte duty to give a limiting instruction, although it should do so upon request.