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Prejudicial Error In Giving Jury Instruction

People v. Southard Court: California Courts of Appeal, Docket: A157236 (First Appellate District), Opinion Date: March 24, 2021. On December 18, officers stopped a pickup truck that was driving at about 35 miles per hour in a 55 mile per hour zone, while straddling the white line. Southard emerged and ran; officers tased and arrested Southard. On December 25, Southard and his minor son were passengers in a car driven by Bonde that was stopped because the license plate lights were not working. Officer Krueger recognized Southard and was aware of the December 18 incident. Bonde’s license came back as suspended but Krueger did not cite him. Krueger requested backup. Southard refused orders to exit the car and was verbally aggressive. After several bites by a police dog and strikes with an officer’s baton, three officers tased Southard and pulled him out of the car. Southard was convicted of seven counts of obstructing a peace officer and forcible resistance of an officer—charges that require the People to prove the officers were acting lawfully—and one misdemeanor count of possession of methamphetamine. The court of appeal reversed. The trial court committed prejudicial error when it gave a special instruction based on language from an appellate opinion that acted to remove the lawful performance element of the resisting charges and gave CALCRIM No. 250 that acted to remove the knowledge element of the charged offenses. The court “reminded” trial courts of the danger of instructing a jury with language from an opinion that has nothing to do with jury instructions.

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