When evidence which is admissible as to one party or for one purpose but not admissible as to another party or for another purpose is admitted, the court, upon request, shall restrict the evidence to its proper scope and instruct the jury accordingly.
This section is derived from Commonwealth v. Carrion, 407 Mass. 263, 275, 552 N.E.2d 558, 566 (1990) (“Evidence admissible for one purpose, if offered in good faith, is not inadmissible by the fact that it could not be used for another purpose.”). If there is no request for a limiting instruction, the evidence is before the trier of fact for all purposes. See, e.g., Commonwealth v. Roberts, 433 Mass. 45, 48, 740 N.E.2d 176, 179 (2000); Commonwealth v. Hollyer, 8 Mass. App. Ct. 428, 431, 395 N.E.2d 354, 356 (1979).
A party must ask for an instruction limiting the scope of the evidence, if one is desired, at the time the evidence is admitted. Commonwealth v. Roberts, 433 Mass. at 48, 740 N.E.2d at 179. “[T]here is no requirement that the judge give limiting instructions sua sponte.” Commonwealth v. Sullivan, 436 Mass. 799, 809, 768 N.E.2d 529, 537 (2002). “A judge may refuse to limit the scope of the evidence where the objecting party fails to request limiting instructions when the evidence is introduced.” Commonwealth v. Roberts, 433 Mass. at 48, 740 N.E.2d at 179. “After the close of the evidence it is too late to present as of right a request for a ruling that the evidence be stricken.” Id.
The trial judge has discretion in determining how to formulate limiting instructions. The Supreme Judicial Court has stated that
“[a] trial judge may properly bring to the jury’s attention issues of fact and conflicts of testimony. [The judge] may point out factors to be considered in weighing particular testimony. Nothing . . . precludes, or could properly preclude, such guidance where the judge clearly places the function of ultimate appraisal of the testimony upon the jury.”
Barrette v. Hight, 353 Mass. 268, 271, 230 N.E.2d 808, 810 (1967).