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5.5 Willfully

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As the Supreme Court has observed, "willful" is a word of "many meanings" and "its construction [is] often . . . influenced by its context." Ratzlaf v. United States, 510 U.S. 135, 141 (1994). Accordingly, Ninth Circuit cases have defined "willful" in different terms depending on the particular crime charged. See, e.g., United States v. Liu, 731 F.3d 982, 985, 992 (9th Cir. 2013) (willfulness requires proof that defendant knew he was acting illegally in criminal copyright infringement prosecution); United States v. Ajoku, 718 F.3d 882, 890 (9th Cir.2013) (in prosecution for false statements in connection with healthcare services, statements are willful if "made deliberately with knowledge that the statements were untrue"); United States v. Anguiano-Morfin, 713 F.3d 1208, 1210 (9th Cir.2013) (in prosecution for falsely claiming United States citizenship, defendant’s subjective belief is dispositive on issue of willfulness); United States v. Berry, 683 F.3d 1015, 1021 (9th Cir.2012) (in prosecution for social security fraud "willfully" connotes a "culpable state of mind"); United States v. Reyes, 577 F.3d 1069, 1080 (9th Cir.2009) (in prosecution for securities fraud "willfully" means "intentionally undertaking an act that one knows to be wrongful; ‘willfully’ in this context does not require that the actor know specifically that the conduct was unlawful," quoting United States v. Tarallo, 380 F.3d 1174, 1188 (9th Cir.2004) (emphasis in original)); United States v. Easterday, 564 F.3d 1004, 1006 (9th Cir.2009) (for crime of failure to pay employee payroll taxes, "willful" defined as "a voluntary, intentional violation of a known legal duty"); United States v. Awad, 551 F.3d 930, 939 (9th Cir.2009) (in health care fraud case, "willful" act is one undertaken with "bad purpose" with knowledge that conduct was unlawful).As the meaning of "willfully" necessarily depends on particular facts arising under the applicable statute, the Committee has not provided a generic instruction defining that term. In the context of tax crimes, however, see Instruction 9.42 (Willfully—Defined).


Approved 2/2014