Criminal Law

362. Consciousness of Guilt: False Statements

If [the] defendant [ <insert name of defendant when multiple defendants on trial>] made a false or misleading statement relating to the charged crime, knowing the statement was false or intending to mislead, that conduct may show (he/ she) was aware of (his/her) guilt of the crime and you may consider it in determining (his/her) guilt. [You may not consider the statement in deciding any other defendant's guilt.]

If you conclude that the defendant made the statement, it is up to you to decide its meaning and importance. However, evidence that the defendant made such a statement cannot prove guilt by itself.

Bench Notes

Instructional Duty

The court has a sua sponte duty to instruct on consciousness of guilt when there is evidence that the defendant intentionally made a false statement from which such an inference could be drawn. (People v. Atwood (1963) 223 Cal.App.2d 316, 333-334 [35 Cal.Rptr. 831]; see also People v. Edwards (1992) 8 Cal.App.4th 1092, 1103-1104 [10 Cal.Rptr.2d 821] [approving instruction on this point].)

This instruction should not be given unless it can be inferred that the defendant made the false statement for self-protection rather than to protect someone else. (People v. Rankin (1992) 9 Cal.App.4th 430 [11 Cal.Rptr.2d 735] [error to instruct on false statements and consciousness of guilt where defendant lied to protect an accomplice]; see also People v. Blakeslee (1969) 2 Cal.App.3d 831, 839 [82 Cal.Rptr. 839].)


Instructional Requirements. People v. Atwood (1963) 223 Cal.App.2d 316, 333 [35 Cal.Rptr. 831]; see also People v. Coffman and Marlow (2004) 34 Cal.4th 1, 102-103 [17 Cal.Rptr.3d 710, 96 P.3d 30].

Secondary Sources

1 Witkin, California Evidence (4th ed. 2000) Hearsay, § 110.

4 Millman, Sevilla & Tarlow, California Criminal Defense Practice, Ch. 83, Evidence, § 83.13[1], Ch. 85, Submission to Jury and Verdict, § 85.03[2][c] (Matthew Bender).


The word "willfully" was not included in the description of the making of the false statement. Although one court suggested that the jury be explicitly instructed that the defendant must "willfully" make the false statement (People v. Louis (1984) 159 Cal.App.3d 156, 161-162 [205 Cal.Rptr. 306]), the California Supreme Court subsequently held that such language is not required. (People v. Mickey (1991) 54 Cal.3d 612, 672, fn. 9 [286 Cal.Rptr. 801, 818 P.2d 84].)

Related Issues


The false nature of the defendant's statement may be shown by inconsistencies in the defendant's own testimony, his or her pretrial statements, or by any other prosecution evidence. (People v. Kimble (1988) 44 Cal.3d 480, 498 [244 Cal.Rptr. 148, 749 P.2d 803] [overruling line of cases that required falsity to be demonstrated only by defendant's own testimony or statements]; accord People v. Edwards (1992) 8 Cal.App.4th 1092, 1103 [10 Cal.Rptr.2d 821]; People v. Williams (1995) 33 Cal.App.4th 467, 478-479 [39 Cal.Rptr.2d 358].)

Un-Mirandized Voluntary Statement

The Miranda rule (Miranda v. Arizona (1966) 384 U.S. 436, 444, 479 [86 S.Ct. 1602, 16 L.Ed.2d 694]) does not prohibit instructing the jury that it may draw an inference of guilt from a willfully false or deliberately misleading un-Mirandized statement that the defendant voluntarily introduces into evidence on direct examination. (People v. Williams (2000) 79 Cal.App.4th 1157, 1166-1169 [94 Cal.Rptr.2d 727].)

(New January 2006)