Skip to content
Name: People v. Watt
Case #: E058212
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 4 DCA
Division: 2
Opinion Date: 09/18/2014

Jury instruction on mistake of fact defense for receiving stolen property charge, which required a reasonable belief that the property was abandoned, did not require reversal. Watt was convicted of receiving stolen property. His defense at trial was that he believed the property to have been abandoned. The jury was instructed with a modified version of CALCRIM No. 3406, which provided that the defendant was not guilty if he did not have the requisite intent because he reasonably did not know or mistakenly believed a fact. The jury was told that if Watt believed the property was dumped, and found that belief reasonable, he did not have the requisite specific intent for the crime. The jury was not told the standard they were to apply in determining the reasonableness of the defendant’s belief (objective or subjective). On appeal, he contended that the court erred in instructing the jury that the belief had to be reasonable. Held: Affirmed. The use note for CALCRIM No. 3406 states that the language requiring the belief to be reasonable should not be used if the mental state at issue is knowledge. Although objective reasonableness is not a requirement of the defense, a mistake of fact must be in good faith and subjective reasonableness can be relevant to the issue of good faith. While there is a possibility that at least one juror construed the instruction to mean objectively reasonable, any error was harmless. Under other instructions given, the jury was still required to find beyond a reasonable doubt that Watt knew the items were stolen. The jurors were also expressly instructed to acquit if they had a reasonable doubt that Watt knew the property was stolen. Further, the evidence supporting the jury’s implied finding that Watt knew the property was stolen was so strong that there was no reasonable probability that the disputed instruction affected the result.