Chapter 2. Rules Of Pleading of California Penal Code >> Title 5. >> Part 2. >> Chapter 2.
All the forms of pleading in criminal actions, and the rules
by which the sufficiency of pleadings is to be determined, are those
prescribed by this Code.
The first pleading on the part of the people in the superior
court in a felony case is the indictment, information, or the
complaint in any case certified to the superior court under Section
859a. The first pleading on the part of the people in a misdemeanor
or infraction case is the complaint except as otherwise provided by
law. The first pleading on the part of the people in a proceeding
pursuant to Section 3060 of the Government Code is an accusation.
The accusatory pleading must contain:
1. The title of the action, specifying the name of the court to
which the same is presented, and the names of the parties;
2. A statement of the public offense or offenses charged therein.
An indictment or information may be in substantially the
following form: The people of the State of California against A. B.
In the superior court of the State of California, in and for the
county of ____. The grand jury (or the district attorney) of the
county of ____ hereby accuses A. B. of a felony (or misdemeanor), to
wit: (giving the name of the crime, as murder, burglary, etc.), in
that on or about the ____ day of ____, 19__, in the county of ____,
State of California, he (here insert statement of act or omission, as
for example, "murdered C. D.").
In charging an offense, each count shall contain, and shall be
sufficient if it contains in substance, a statement that the accused
has committed some public offense therein specified. Such statement
may be made in ordinary and concise language without any technical
averments or any allegations of matter not essential to be proved. It
may be in the words of the enactment describing the offense or
declaring the matter to be a public offense, or in any words
sufficient to give the accused notice of the offense of which he is
accused. In charging theft it shall be sufficient to allege that the
defendant unlawfully took the labor or property of another.
When a defendant is charged by a fictitious or erroneous name,
and in any stage of the proceedings his true name is discovered, it
must be inserted in the subsequent proceedings, referring to the fact
of his being charged by the name mentioned in the accusatory
An accusatory pleading may charge two or more different
offenses connected together in their commission, or different
statements of the same offense or two or more different offenses of
the same class of crimes or offenses, under separate counts, and if
two or more accusatory pleadings are filed in such cases in the same
court, the court may order them to be consolidated. The prosecution
is not required to elect between the different offenses or counts set
forth in the accusatory pleading, but the defendant may be convicted
of any number of the offenses charged, and each offense of which the
defendant is convicted must be stated in the verdict or the finding
of the court; provided, that the court in which a case is triable, in
the interests of justice and for good cause shown, may in its
discretion order that the different offenses or counts set forth in
the accusatory pleading be tried separately or divided into two or
more groups and each of said groups tried separately. An acquittal of
one or more counts shall not be deemed an acquittal of any other
In cases in which two or more different offenses of the same
class of crimes or offenses have been charged together in the same
accusatory pleading, or where two or more accusatory pleadings
charging offenses of the same class of crimes or offenses have been
consolidated, evidence concerning one offense or offenses need not be
admissible as to the other offense or offenses before the jointly
charged offenses may be tried together before the same trier of fact.
The precise time at which the offense was committed need not
be stated in the accusatory pleading, but it may be alleged to have
been committed at any time before the finding or filing thereof,
except where the time is a material ingredient in the offense.
When an offense involves the commission of, or an attempt to
commit a private injury, and is described with sufficient certainty
in other respects to identify the act, an erroneous allegation as to
the person injured, or intended to be injured, or of the place where
the offense was committed, or of the property involved in its
commission, is not material.
The words used in an accusatory pleading are construed in
their usual acceptance in common language, except such words and
phrases as are defined by law, which are construed according to their
Words used in a statute to define a public offense need not be
strictly pursued in the accusatory pleading, but other words
conveying the same meaning may be used.
The accusatory pleading is sufficient if it can be understood
1. That it is filed in a court having authority to receive it,
though the name of the court be not stated.
2. If an indictment, that it was found by a grand jury of the
county in which the court was held, or if an information, that it was
subscribed and presented to the court by the district attorney of
the county in which the court was held.
3. If a complaint, that it is made and subscribed by some natural
person and sworn to before some officer entitled to administer oaths.
4. That the defendant is named, or if his name is unknown, that he
is described by a fictitious name, with a statement that his true
name is to the grand jury, district attorney, or complainant, as the
case may be, unknown.
5. That the offense charged therein is triable in the court in
which it is filed, except in case of a complaint filed with a
magistrate for the purposes of a preliminary examination.
6. That the offense was committed at some time prior to the filing
of the accusatory pleading.
(a) Notwithstanding Sections 740, 806, 949, and 959 or any
other law to the contrary, a criminal prosecution may be commenced by
filing an accusatory pleading in electronic form with the magistrate
or in a court having authority to receive it.
(b) As used in this section, accusatory pleadings include, but are
not limited to, the complaint, the information, and the indictment.
(c) A magistrate or court is authorized to receive and file an
accusatory pleading in electronic form if all of the following
conditions are met:
(1) The accusatory pleading is issued in the name of, and
transmitted by, a public prosecutor or law enforcement agency filing
pursuant to Chapter 5c (commencing with Section 853.5) or Chapter 5d
(commencing with Section 853.9), or by a clerk of the court with
respect to complaints issued for the offenses of failure to appear,
pay a fine, or comply with an order of the court.
(2) The magistrate or court has the facility to electronically
store the accusatory pleading for the statutory period of record
(3) The magistrate or court has the ability to reproduce the
accusatory pleading in physical form upon demand and payment of any
An accusatory pleading shall be deemed to have been filed when it
has been received by the magistrate or court.
When transmitted in electronic form, the accusatory pleading shall
be exempt from any requirement that it be subscribed by a natural
person. It is sufficient to satisfy any requirement that an
accusatory pleading, or any part of it, be sworn to before an officer
entitled to administer oaths, if the pleading, or any part of it,
was in fact sworn to and the electronic form indicates which parts of
the pleading were sworn to and the name of the officer who
administered the oath.
(d) Notwithstanding any other law, a notice to appear issued on a
form approved by the Judicial Council may be received and filed by a
court in electronic form, if the following conditions are met:
(1) The notice to appear is issued and transmitted by a law
enforcement agency prosecuting pursuant to Chapter 5c (commencing
with Section 853.5) or Chapter 5d (commencing with Section 853.9) of
Title 3 of Part 2 of this code, or Chapter 2 (commencing with Section
40300) of Division 17 of the Vehicle Code.
(2) The court has all of the following:
(A) The ability to receive the notice to appear in electronic
(B) The facility to electronically store an electronic copy and
the data elements of the notice to appear for the statutory period of
(C) The ability to reproduce the electronic copy of the notice to
appear and those data elements in printed form upon demand and
payment of any costs involved.
(3) The issuing agency has the ability to reproduce the notice to
appear in physical form upon demand and payment of any costs
(e) A notice to appear that is received under subdivision (d) is
deemed to have been filed when it has been accepted by the court and
is in the form approved by the Judicial Council.
(f) If transmitted in electronic form, the notice to appear is
deemed to have been signed by the defendant if it includes a
digitized facsimile of the defendant's signature on the notice to
appear. A notice to appear filed electronically under subdivision (d)
need not be subscribed by the citing officer. An electronically
submitted notice to appear need not be verified by the citing officer
with a declaration under penalty of perjury if the electronic form
indicates which parts of the notice are verified by that declaration
and the name of the officer making the declaration.
No accusatory pleading is insufficient, nor can the trial,
judgment, or other proceeding thereon be affected by reason of any
defect or imperfection in matter of form which does not prejudice a
substantial right of the defendant upon the merits.
Neither presumptions of law, nor matters of which judicial
notice is authorized or required to be taken, need be stated in an
In pleading a judgment or other determination of, or
proceeding before, a Court or officer of special jurisdiction, it is
not necessary to state the facts constituting jurisdiction; but the
judgment or determination may be stated as given or made, or the
proceedings had. The facts constituting jurisdiction, however, must
be established on the trial.
In pleading a private statute, or an ordinance of a county or
a municipal corporation, or a right derived therefrom, it is
sufficient to refer to the statute or ordinance by its title and the
day of its passage, and the court must thereupon take judicial notice
thereof in the same manner that it takes judicial notice of matters
listed in Section 452 of the Evidence Code.
(a) In each county, the district attorney and the courts, in
consultation with any local law enforcement agencies that may desire
to provide information or other assistance, shall establish a
mutually agreeable procedure to protect confidential personal
information regarding any witness or victim contained in a police
report, arrest report, or investigative report if one of these
reports is submitted to a court by a prosecutor in support of a
criminal complaint, indictment, or information, or by a prosecutor or
law enforcement officer in support of a search warrant or an arrest
(b) For purposes of this section, "confidential personal
information" includes, but is not limited to, an address, telephone
number, driver's license or California Identification Card number,
social security number, date of birth, place of employment, employee
identification number, mother's maiden name, demand deposit account
number, savings or checking account number, or credit card number.
(c) (1) This section may not be construed to impair or affect the
provisions of Chapter 10 (commencing with Section 1054) of Title 6 of
(2) This section may not be construed to impair or affect
procedures regarding informant disclosure provided by Sections 1040
to 1042, inclusive, of the Evidence Code, or as altering procedures
regarding sealed search warrant affidavits as provided by People v.
Hobbs (1994) 7 Cal.4th 948.
(3) This section shall not be construed to impair or affect a
criminal defense counsel's access to unredacted reports otherwise
authorized by law, or the submission of documents in support of a
(4) This section applies as an exception to California Rule of
Court 2.550, as provided by paragraph (2) of subdivision (a) of that
When an instrument which is the subject of an indictment or
information for forgery has been destroyed or withheld by the act or
the procurement of the defendant, and the fact of such destruction or
withholding is alleged in the indictment, or information, and
established on the trial, the misdescription of the instrument is
In an accusatory pleading for perjury, or subornation of
perjury, it is sufficient to set forth the substance of the
controversy or matter in respect to which the offense was committed,
and in what court and before whom the oath alleged to be false was
taken, and that the court, or the person before whom it was taken,
had authority to administer it, with proper allegations of the
falsity of the matter on which the perjury is assigned; but the
accusatory pleading need not set forth the pleadings, records, or
proceedings with which the oath is connected, nor the commission or
authority of the court or person before whom the perjury was
In an accusatory pleading charging the theft of money, bank
notes, certificates of stock or valuable securities, or a conspiracy
to cheat or defraud a person of any such property, it is sufficient
to allege the theft, or the conspiracy to cheat or defraud, to be of
money, bank notes, certificates of stock or valuable securities
without specifying the coin, number, denomination, or kind thereof.
An accusatory pleading charging exhibiting, publishing,
passing, selling, or offering to sell, or having in possession, with
such intent, any lewd or obscene book, pamphlet, picture, print,
card, paper, or writing, need not set forth any portion of the
language used or figures shown upon such book, pamphlet, picture,
print, card, paper, or writing; but it is sufficient to state
generally the fact of the lewdness or obscenity thereof.
In charging the fact of a previous conviction of felony, or of
an attempt to commit an offense which, if perpetrated, would have
been a felony, or of theft, it is sufficient to state, "That the
defendant, before the commission of the offense charged herein, was
in (giving the title of the court in which the conviction was had)
convicted of a felony (or attempt, etc., or of theft)." If more than
one previous conviction is charged, the date of the judgment upon
each conviction may be stated, and all known previous convictions,
whether in this State or elsewhere, must be charged.
969a. Whenever it shall be discovered that a pending indictment or
information does not charge all prior felonies of which the defendant
has been convicted either in this State or elsewhere, said
indictment or information may be forthwith amended to charge such
prior conviction or convictions, and if such amendment is made it
shall be made upon order of the court, and no action of the grand
jury (in the case of an indictment) shall be necessary. Defendant
shall promptly be rearraigned on such information or indictment as
amended and be required to plead thereto.
969b. For the purpose of establishing prima facie evidence of the
fact that a person being tried for a crime or public offense under
the laws of this State has been convicted of an act punishable by
imprisonment in a state prison, county jail or city jail of this
State, and has served a term therefor in any penal institution, or
has been convicted of an act in any other state, which would be
punishable as a crime in this State, and has served a term therefor
in any state penitentiary, reformatory, county jail or city jail, or
has been convicted of an act declared to be a crime by any act or law
of the United States, and has served a term therefor in any penal
institution, the records or copies of records of any state
penitentiary, reformatory, county jail, city jail, or federal
penitentiary in which such person has been imprisoned, when such
records or copies thereof have been certified by the official
custodian of such records, may be introduced as such evidence.
969e. In charging the fact of a previous conviction for a violation
of Section 5652 of the Fish and Game Code, or of Section 13001 or
13002 of the Health and Safety Code or of Section 374b or 374d of the
Penal Code or of Section 23111, 23112, or 23113 of the Vehicle Code,
it is sufficient to state, "That the defendant, before the
commission of the offense charged herein, was in (giving the title of
the court in which the conviction was had) convicted of a violation
of (specifying the section violated)."
969f. (a) Whenever a defendant has committed a serious felony as
defined in subdivision (c) of Section 1192.7, the facts that make the
crime constitute a serious felony may be charged in the accusatory
pleading. However, the crime shall not be referred to as a serious
felony nor shall the jury be informed that the crime is defined as a
serious felony. This charge, if made, shall be added to and be a part
of the count or each of the counts of the accusatory pleading which
charged the offense. If the defendant pleads not guilty to the
offense charged in any count which alleges that the defendant
committed a serious felony, the question whether or not the defendant
committed a serious felony as alleged shall be tried by the court or
jury which tries the issue upon the plea of not guilty. If the
defendant pleads guilty of the offense charged, the question whether
or not the defendant committed a serious felony as alleged shall be
separately admitted or denied by the defendant.
(b) In charging an act or acts that bring the defendant within the
operation of paragraph (8) or (23) of subdivision (c) of Section
1192.7, it is sufficient for purposes of subdivision (a) if the
pleading states the following:
"It is further alleged that in the commission and attempted
commission of the foregoing offense, the defendant ____, personally
[inflicted great bodily injury on another person, other than an
accomplice] [used a firearm, to wit: ____,] [used a dangerous and
deadly weapon, to wit: ____,] within the meaning of Sections 667 and
1192.7 of the Penal Code."
(a) Whenever it shall be discovered that a pending complaint
to which a plea of guilty has been made under Section 859a does not
charge all prior felonies of which the defendant has been convicted
either in this state or elsewhere, the complaint may be forthwith
amended to charge the prior conviction or convictions and the
amendments may and shall be made upon order of the court. The
defendant shall thereupon be arraigned before the court to which the
complaint has been certified and shall be asked whether he or she has
suffered the prior conviction. If the defendant enters a denial, his
or her answer shall be entered in the minutes of the court. The
refusal of the defendant to answer is equivalent to a denial that he
or she has suffered the prior conviction.
(b) Except as provided in subdivision (c), the question of whether
or not the defendant has suffered the prior conviction shall be
tried by a jury impaneled for that purpose unless a jury is waived,
in which case it may be tried by the court.
(c) Notwithstanding the provisions of subdivision (b), the
question of whether the defendant is the person who has suffered the
prior conviction shall be tried by the court without a jury.
When several defendants are named in one accusatory pleading,
any one or more may be convicted or acquitted.
The distinction between an accessory before the fact and a
principal, and between principals in the first and second degree is
abrogated; and all persons concerned in the commission of a crime,
who by the operation of other provisions of this code are principals
therein, shall hereafter be prosecuted, tried and punished as
principals and no other facts need be alleged in any accusatory
pleading against any such person than are required in an accusatory
pleading against a principal.
An accessory to the commission of a felony may be prosecuted,
tried, and punished, though the principal may be neither prosecuted
nor tried, and though the principal may have been acquitted.
If the accusatory pleading in any criminal action has
heretofore been lost or destroyed or shall hereafter be lost or
destroyed, the court must, upon the application of the prosecuting
attorney or of the defendant, order a copy of such pleading to be
filed and substituted for the original, and when filed and
substituted, as provided in this section, the copy shall have the
same force and effect as if it were the original pleading.