California Penal Code section 1127c Case Law

"Penal Code section 1127c requires that whenever evidence of flight is relied on to show guilt, the court must instruct the jury that while flight is not sufficient to establish guilt, it is a fact which, if proved, the jury may consider. This statute was enacted to abolish the common law rule that the jury could not be instructed on flight unless there was evidence defendant knew he had been accused." (People v. Pensinger (1991) 52 Cal.3d 1210, 1243.) "'In general, a flight instruction "is proper where the evidence shows that the defendant departed the crime scene under circumstances suggesting that his movement was motivated by a consciousness of guilt." '" (People v. Bonilla (2007) 41 Cal.4th 313, 328.) The prosecution is not required to "prove the defendant in fact fled, i.e., departed the scene to avoid arrest, only that a jury could find the defendant fled and permissibly infer a consciousness of guilt from the evidence." (Ibid.) In People v. Staten (2000) 24 Cal.4th 434, the Court explained that in People v. Green (1980) 27 Cal.3d 1, 39 and 40, the California Supreme Court "held that refusal of an instruction on absence of flight was proper and was not unfair in light of Penal Code section 1127c. The Court observed that such an instruction would invite speculation; there are plausible reasons why a guilty person might refrain from flight. Section 1127c explains that: "In any criminal trial or proceeding where evidence of flight of a defendant is relied upon as tending to show guilt, the court shall instruct the jury substantially as follows: The flight of a person immediately after the commission of a crime, or after he is accused of a crime that has been committed, is not sufficient in itself to establish his guilt, but is a fact which, if proved, the jury may consider in deciding his guilt or innocence. The weight to which such circumstance is entitled is a matter for the jury to determine. No further instruction on the subject of flight need be given." In Green, supra, 27 Cal.3d 1, the court noted that evidence of the absence of flight has been held to be inadmissible under Evidence Code section 352 as so ambiguous and laden with conflicting interpretations that its probative value on the issue of innocence is slight. (Id. at p. 39.) The Green court concluded that, even though there was evidence presented to show the absence of flight, the court was not required to instruct on the absence of flight because the instruction would have injected a new issue into the jury's deliberations and invited speculation. (Ibid.)