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2.12 Evidence for Limited Purpose

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You are about to hear evidence that [describe evidence to be received for limited purpose]. I instruct you that this evidence is admitted only for the limited purpose of [describe purpose] and, therefore, you must consider it only for that limited purpose and not for any other purpose. 


Federal Rule of Evidence 105 provides that when evidence is admitted for a limited purpose, the court, when requested, must provide a limiting instruction. Furthermore, the court must provide an appropriate limiting instruction sua sponte if failure to do so would affect the defendant’s "substantial rights." See United States v. Armijo, 5 F.3d 1229, 1232 (9th Cir. 1993). For example, in United States v. Sauza-Martinez, 217 F.3d 754, 760 (9th Cir. 2000), the Ninth Circuit held the trial court "had no alternative" but to give the jury alimiting instruction sua sponte when a testifying co-defendant’s post-arrest statements were admitted as substantive evidence against her under Fed. R. Evid. 801(d)(2)(A), but were not admissible against another co-defendant "under any theory" (emphasis in original). Under the circumstances of the case, it was plain error to fail to give the limiting instruction sua sponte. Id. at 761. 

The Committee recommends judges use limiting instructions whenever evidence is received for a limited purpose. "We have repeatedly held that a district court’s careful and frequent limiting instructions to the jury, explaining how and against whom certain evidence may be considered, can reduce or eliminate any possibility of prejudice arising from a joint trial." United States v. Fernandez, 388 F.3d 1199, 1243 (9th Cir. 2004) (internal citations omitted). 



Approved 3/2018