Consciousness of guilt

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Consciousness of guilt is a legal concept and a type of circumstantial evidence of guilt. It is based on a criminal suspect who demonstrates a guilty conscience by their actions or speech.[1] Some examples of consciousness of guilt are:[1]

  • Fleeing from the crime scene or jurisdiction
  • False statements and lies
  • False alibi
  • Changing one's name or personal appearance
  • Concealing or destroying evidence
  • Witness intimidation or bribery
  • Generally, any attempts to cover up a crime

Simply put, consciousness of guilt is an action or statement that a person accused of a crime makes that an innocent person would not make.

Consciousness of guilt can be misinterpreted, either by way of innocent explanation (e.g., "I was running to get away from the riot, not because I partook in it.") or from the problems of hearsay evidence.[2]

In the United States, some behaviors of a defendant are automatically not considered consciousness of guilt, including denial of committing a crime and silence,[1] the latter of which is protected by the Fifth Amendment of the United States Constitution and the Supreme Court decision that resulted in the Miranda warning. While these things are not considered consciousness of guilt in a court of law, they can be considered consciousness of guilt in the court of public opinion.

See also[edit]