CALCRIM No. 372. Defendant’s Flight

Judicial Council of California Criminal Jury Instructions (2020 edition)

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372.Defendant’s Flight
If the defendant fled [or tried to flee] (immediately after the crime was
committed/ [or] after (he/she) was accused of committing the crime), that
conduct may show that (he/she) was aware of (his/her) guilt. If you
conclude that the defendant fled [or tried to flee], it is up to you to
decide the meaning and importance of that conduct. However, evidence
that the defendant fled [or tried to flee] cannot prove guilt by itself.
New January 2006
BENCH NOTES
Instructional Duty
The court has a sua sponte duty to instruct on flight whenever the prosecution relies
on evidence of flight to show consciousness of guilt. (People v. Williams (1960) 179
Cal.App.2d 487, 491 [3 Cal.Rptr. 782].) There is, however, no reciprocal duty to
instruct on the significance of the absence of flight, even on request. (People v.
Staten (2000) 24 Cal.4th 434, 459 [101 Cal.Rptr.2d 213, 11 P.3d 968]; People v.
Williams (1997) 55 Cal.App.4th 648, 651 [64 Cal.Rptr.2d 203].)
If the defendant’s flight did not occur immediately after the crime was committed,
the trial court should give the second option in the parenthetical. (People v. Carrera
(1989) 49 Cal.3d 291, 313 [261 Cal.Rptr. 348, 777 P.2d 121] [flight from county
jail]; People v. Farley (1996) 45 Cal.App.4th 1697, 1712 [53 Cal.Rptr.2d 702]
[when flight was from custody, the instructional language “immediately after the
commission of a crime” was irrelevant but harmless].)
AUTHORITY
• Instructional Requirements. Pen. Code, § 1127c; People v. Williams (1960) 179
Cal.App.2d 487, 491 [3 Cal.Rptr. 782]; People v. Bradford (1997) 14 Cal.4th
1005, 1054-1055 [60 Cal.Rptr.2d 225, 929 P.2d 544]; see People v. Mendoza
(2000) 24 Cal.4th 130, 179-180 [99 Cal.Rptr.2d 485, 6 P.3d 150].
• This Instruction Upheld. People v. Paysinger (2009) 174 Cal.App.4th 26,
29-32 [93 Cal.Rptr.3d 901]; People v. Rios (2007) 151 Cal.App.4th 1154,
1159-1160 [60 Cal.Rptr.3d 591].
RELATED ISSUES
Flight, Meaning
Flight does not require a person to physically run from the scene or make an escape.
What is required is acting with the purpose of avoiding observation or arrest.
(People v. Bradford (1997) 14 Cal.4th 1005, 1055 [60 Cal.Rptr.2d 225, 929 P.2d
544] [defendant fled when he left victim’s apartment after killing her, told the
assistant manager, “I really got to get the hell out of here,” returned to his
apartment, packed his belongings, asked a former girlfriend who lived out of the
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area if he could stay with her, and repeatedly pleaded with his roommate to drive
him out of town].)
Identity at Issue
If evidence identifies the defendant as the person who fled, and this evidence is
relied on as tending to show guilt, then it is not error to instruct the jury on flight.
(People v. Mason (1991) 52 Cal.3d 909, 943 [277 Cal.Rptr. 166, 802 P.2d 950].)
SECONDARY SOURCES
5 Witkin & Epstein, California Criminal Law (4th ed. 2012) Criminal Trial,
§§ 723-724.
1 Witkin, California Evidence (5th ed. 2012) Hearsay, §§ 107-110.
4 Millman, Sevilla & Tarlow, California Criminal Defense Practice, Ch. 85,
Submission to Jury and Verdict, §§ 85.02[2][a][ii], 85.03[2][c] (Matthew Bender).
CALCRIM No. 372 EVIDENCE
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