Contact Us 301-705-5137

Is Fleeing the Scene of a Crime Proof of Guilt?

When a possible criminal act has occurred in your presence, your first instinct may be to get away from the scene as quickly as possible. But could such a split-second decision be later introduced as evidence that you were the person who committed the crime? The answer to that question is more complicated than you might think.

In Maryland, a judge can instruct a jury that a person’s flight “immediately after the commission of a crime, or after being accused of committing a crime” is not, in and of itself, sufficient to establish a person’s guilt. However, the jury may consider flight as evidence, keeping in mind there may be a number of reasons for a person to flee the scene that are “fully consistent with evidence.” Ultimately, it is up to the jurors to decide if a defendant’s flight demonstrated “consciousness of guilt” or had a more innocent explanation.

Court of Special Appeals Upholds Second-Degree Murder Conviction

Take this recent decision from the Maryland Court of Special Appeals, Thorne v. State. This was a murder case. Police in Lanham, Maryland, responded to a call of a gunshot victim who died from his injuries. Police subsequently arrested the defendant, who had been with the victim prior to the shooting to conduct a drug deal.

At trial, the defendant admitted to meeting with the victim to buy drugs. He testified the victim and another unnamed assailant then “ambushed” him at gunpoint. The defendant said he became involved in a “tussle” with the third person and wrestled the gun away, and fired two shots at the victim. The defendant then admitted to fleeing the scene in his car because he was afraid of being shot himself.

The jury did not believe the defendant’s story and convicted him of second-degree murder and related charges. The trial court imposed a prison sentence of 40 years. On appeal, the defendant challenged the trial judge’s instructions to the jury. One issue raised was the appropriateness of giving the instruction regarding flight as evidence of consciousness of guilt.

The Court of Special Appeals upheld the defendant’s murder conviction. Regarding the flight instruction, the Court noted the evidence at trial showed that the defendant “left the scene of a crime in a residential neighborhood and did not notify the authorities.” He then drove to his sister’s home without seeking medical treatment for his own gunshot wounds. Later, he lied to the police about whether or not he even knew the victim. From all this, the Court said the jury was allowed to consider and infer that the defendant’s initial decision to leave the scene demonstrated consciousness of guilt. The judge’s instruction to the jury was therefore appropriate.

Contact Calvert County Criminal Defense Lawyer Robert Castro Today

This article has been provided by the Law Office of Robert Castro. For more information or questions contact our office to speak to an experienced lawyer at (301) 705-5137.