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Criminal Jury Instructions

About this Edition

The current Criminal Jury Instruction Committee, appointed by former Chief Court Administrator William J. Lavery in March 2006, was charged with a complete review of the existing criminal jury instructions. Its first task was to identify those offenses for which new instructions were needed. As a result, 200 offenses were considered and over 100 new instructions drafted. The second task of the committee was to review and update the existing instructions to correspond to appellate decisions and statutory amendments since 2001.

The collection now includes instructions for most of the Penal Code (a handful of minor offenses were not included), many of the offenses in Chapter 53, the most commonly occurring drug offenses from Chapter 21a and weapons offenses from Chapter 29, and the most commonly occurring motor vehicle offenses for which a jury trial is available from Chapter 14. It is organized into 10 parts: Preliminary Instructions, General Instructions, and 8 broad categories of crime. These categories do not necessarily correspond to the organization of the General Statutes. To find an instruction by the statute number, see the Index by Statute.

 


The whole collection has been renumbered because the 2001 collection was reorganized, many of the existing instructions were either split into multiple instructions or combined into a single instruction, and many new instructions were added. The numbering system was chosen to be flexible and allow for additions.

The general goal is to provide neutral and accurate statements of the law in a format that would be easy to read and apply to specific cases. Although the primary resource for the content of these instructions is the statutory language and Connecticut case law, when there has not been appellate court interpretation of the statute, this committee, as had its predecessor committees, relied on both Wright’s Jury Instructions (2nd Ed. 1975) and New York Criminal Jury Instructions.

Individual Offense Instructions
There is not necessarily a single instruction for each statute. If a statute provides discrete alternative ways of committing an offense, there are separate instructions. Similarly, multiple statutes defining similar offenses, most often different degrees of the same offense, have been combined into a single instruction when the only distinguishing factor is a single element.

Each instruction for an offense begins with the statutory definition of the crime. The statutory language has been altered for gender neutrality and the use of the term “victim” has been replaced with “decedent” or “complainant.” The Committee concluded that reading the section number of the Penal Code to jurors was unnecessary and could possibly encourage jurors to do their own legal research. Statutory references are provided in the heading, which is not part of the instruction.

Following the reading of the statute are the elements of the crime, each set off by a bold-faced heading. Any definitions relevant to the element are included. If the definition is derived from a statute or is a specialized definition derived from case law it is hyperlinked to a glossary that provides the statutory citation and any commentary on the definition. Other definitions will have a footnote to its source. Otherwise, a word is given its ordinary meaning as found in the dictionary.

The conclusion of each instruction briefly recaps the elements and ends with a recitation of the jury’s duty to find the defendant guilty or not guilty.

Commentary
Footnotes appear in the body of the instruction to reference case law discussing specific language.

The commentary for an instruction discusses relevant appellate decisions as they relate to the content of the instruction or the elements of the crime. The commentary also, when possible, references case law discussing lesser included offenses. It is in no way a comprehensive analysis of what may or may not be a lesser included offense for a given offense.

For some groups of related crimes, the commentary has been combined into a single introductory section. See, e.g., 5.1 Introduction to Murder and Manslaughter and 6.1 Introduction to Assault.

Revisions
The revision date indicates the date the Criminal Jury Instructions Committee approved the adoption or substantive revision of an instruction. When there has been a minor stylistic change or an update to the commentary, but the substantive body of the instruction remains the same, it will be indicated by a parenthetical date for modification. For example, “Revised to December 1, 2007 (modified June 15, 2008)” means that on June 15, 2008, the instruction or its commentary was modified in some minor way that did not affect the substance of the instruction.

When a revision or modification is made, it will be announced on the opening screen and a chronological listing of all changes will be accessible under Recent Changes.
 

 

1. Preliminary and Trial Instructions | 2. General Instructions | 3. Vicarious Liability and Inchoate Crimes | 4. Crimes Against Administration of Government | 5. Crimes Against Life | 6. Crimes Against Security of Person | 7. Sex Crimes | 8. Crimes Against Public Health, Safety and Welfare | 9.  Crimes Against Property | 10. Criminal Writings, Financial Crimes, and Fraud | Jury Instructions Home | Judicial Home


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