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4.6 Impeachment, Prior Conviction of Defendant

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You have heard evidence that the defendant has previously been convicted of a crime. You may consider that evidence only as it may affect the defendant’s believability as a witness. You may not consider a prior conviction as evidence of guilt of the crime for which the defendant is now on trial.


See Fed. R. Evid. 609 (Impeachment by Evidence of Conviction of Crime). The court must give such a limiting instruction if requested by the defendant. Fed. R. Evid. 105 (Limited Admissibility). However, the failure of a trial court to give such an instruction sua sponte is not reversible error. United States v. Multi-Management, Inc., 743 F.2d 1359, 1364 (9th Cir.1984).

If past crimes of the defendant are to be used for another purpose—such as proving an element of a habitual offender charge, or establishing intent—that limited purpose should similarly be identified. See Instruction 4.3 (Other Crimes, Wrongs or Acts of Defendant).