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WPIC10.02Knowledge—Knowingly—Definition

Washington Practice Series TMWashington Pattern Jury Instructions--Criminal

11 Wash. Prac., Pattern Jury Instr. Crim. WPIC 10.02 (4th Ed)
Washington Practice Series TM
Washington Pattern Jury Instructions--Criminal
October 2016 Update
Washington State Supreme Court Committee on Jury Instructions
Part III. Principles of Liability
WPIC CHAPTER 10. General Requirements of Culpability
WPIC 10.02 Knowledge—Knowingly—Definition
A person knows or acts knowingly or with knowledge with respect to a [fact] [circumstance] [or] [result] when he or she is aware of that [fact] [circumstance] [or] [result]. [It is not necessary that the person know that the [fact] [circumstance] [or] [result] is defined by law as being unlawful or an element of a crime.]
If a person has information that would lead a reasonable person in the same situation to believe that a fact exists, the jury is permitted but not required to find that he or she acted with knowledge of that fact.
[When acting knowingly [as to a particular fact] is required to establish an element of a crime, the element is also established if a person acts intentionally [as to that fact].]
NOTE ON USE
Use bracketed material as applicable.
With regard to the final bracketed sentence, see the Comment below. If this sentence is used, then also use WPIC 10.01 (Intent—Intentionally—Definition).
COMMENT
RCW 9A.08.010(1)(b); RCW 9A.08.010(2).
Modification of statutory definition. The instruction is based largely on the statutory definition of “knowledge.” RCW 9A.08.010(1)(b); RCW 9A.08.010(2).
The instruction varies from the statutory language in several regards. First, the instruction no longer includes the statutory limitation that the fact, circumstance, or result be one that is “described by a statute defining an offense.” RCW 9A.08.010(1)(b). This phrase adds nothing to what the jurors need to understand about the knowledge requirement and unnecessarily complicates the instruction.
Second, the instruction includes bracketed language stating that the person need not have known that the fact at issue was unlawful or an element of a crime. This sentence is included in order to state the rule that “ignorance of the law is no excuse.” See State v. Spence, 81 Wn.2d 788, 792, 506 P.2d 293 (1973), reversed on other grounds at 418 U.S. 405, 94 S.Ct. 2727, 41 L.Ed.2d 842 (1974) (every sane person is presumed to know the law); State v. Patterson, 37 Wn.App. 275, 679 P.2d 416 (1984) (trial court did not err in failing to give an instruction on “good faith belief” or on “ignorance” and/or “mistake of law or fact”); and State v. Takacs, 35 Wn.App. 914, 671 P.2d 263 (1983) (mistake of law is not a defense). The committee believes that this sentence will assist the jury in understanding that the defendant must have knowledge of the facts, circumstances, or results that constitute a crime, rather than knowledge that the facts, circumstances, and results are a crime. See State v. Johnson, 119 Wn.2d 167, 829 P.2d 1082 (1992) (a mistaken reasonable, subjective belief based upon circumstantial evidence may constitute “knowledge”). In the second edition, this principle was worded differently.
Third, the instruction's second paragraph expressly states that jurors may, but are not required to, infer knowledge from circumstantial evidence. See State v. Shipp, 93 Wn.2d 510, 610 P.2d 1322 (1980), which held that the statutory definition of knowledge violated due process because jurors could interpret it as creating an impermissible mandatory presumption. This language has been slightly revised from the statutory language.
Discretionary nature of instruction. Because the statutory definition of “knowledge” merely restates the word's plain meaning, this instruction need not be given every time that an element uses the word or one of its derivatives. State v. Scott, 110 Wn.2d 682, 757 P.2d 492 (1988); compare with State v. Allen, 101 Wn.2d 355, 678 P.2d 798 (1984) (holding that, upon request, the jury must be given the statutory definition of “intent” whenever an element uses that term). Judges should use their discretion in deciding whether defining the word “knowledge” for jurors will assist them in their decision-making. See State v. Scott, 110 Wn.2d at 691 (conferring discretion, but also recommending that “knowledge” be defined in some cases, including cases involving accomplice liability).
Relationship between knowledge and intent. The instruction's final bracketed sentence is based on the language in RCW 9A.08.010(2) that expresses the relationship between knowledge and intent.
The court in State v. Goble, 131 Wn.App. 194, 126 P.3d 821 (2005), found error in an instruction using the following language from an earlier version of this instruction: “Acting knowingly or with knowledge also is established if a person acts intentionally.” In Goble, the statutory element at issue was whether the defendant knew that his assault victim was a law enforcement officer. The court concluded that the instruction improperly merged the concepts of knowledge and intent by allowing the jury to mistakenly infer knowledge of the victim's status from the intentional nature of the assault. State v. Goble, 131 Wn.App. at 203–04.
Clearly, the principle of inferring knowledge from intent is valid only if both mental states are being evaluated with respect to the same fact. Stated somewhat differently, knowledge about Fact A (the victim's status) cannot be inferred from an intent about Fact B (committing an assault). For this reason, the instruction includes bracketed phrases that make this point more directly. The bracketed phrases may be used depending on the evidence and arguments of a particular case.
The Court of Appeals has subsequently noted that the problem addressed in State v. Goble, 131 Wn.App. 194, 126 P.3d 821 (2005) is not present when there is “no second mens rea element to conflate.” State v. Gerdts, 136 Wn.App. 720, 728, 150 P.3d 627 (2007) (a malicious mischief prosecution). The Washington Supreme Court has stated that “the analysis in Gerdts is appropriate.” State v. Sibert, 168 Wn.2d 306, 317, n.7, 230 P.3d 142 (2010).
Relationship between knowledge and willfulness. For a discussion on the relationship between “knowingly” and “willfully,” see the Comment to WPIC 10.05 (Willfully—Definition).
Knowledge based on circumstantial evidence. In State v. Johnson, 119 Wn.2d 167, 829 P.2d 1082 (1992), the Supreme Court held that an actual act of prostitution is not required to establish the offense of permitting prostitution if the defendant has subjective knowledge that the premises over which the defendant has possession or control are being used for prostitution purposes. The court found that State v. Shipp, 93 Wn.2d 510, 610 P.2d 1322 (1980), permits a jury to find actual knowledge from a subjective belief based upon circumstantial evidence if there is sufficient information that would lead a reasonable person to believe that a fact exists.
Instructing a jury that it may find knowledge through such a “permissive inference” was approved in State v. Bryant, 89 Wn.App. 857, 950 P.2d 1004 (1998).
Approval of instruction. The courts have approved the instruction from the second edition of this volume, which is substantively unchanged by the current instruction above. See, e.g., State v. Leech, 114 Wn.2d 700, 790 P.2d 160 (1990) (holding that the second edition's instruction corrected the constitutional problem identified in Shipp); State v. Bryant, 89 Wn.App. 857, 872, 950 P.2d 1004 (1998) (noting that the instruction has been upheld repeatedly since Leech).
[Current as of December 2015.]
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