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Name: People v. Fritz
Case #: G037428
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 4 DCA
Division: 3
Opinion Date: 07/26/2007

A false out-of-court statement by a defendant about material facts of the crime may be introduced as evidence to show consciousness of guilt.

When arrested for several theft-related incidents from a store, appellant agreed to speak with a police officer and then volunteered that he had never stolen anything from a store in the past. He was subsequently charged with petty theft with a prior conviction. At trial the issue as to the priors was bifurcated. The prosecutor’s motion to admit the priors as 1101(b) evidence was denied but the court permitted the prosecution to introduce Fritz’ volunteered statement as consciousness of guilt and then impeach it with the prior convictions. The appellate court disagreed, finding that because the statement had no relation to the material facts of the offense it did not evidence consciousness of guilt. The statement’s extremely prejudicial effect coupled with the “wire-thin” prosecution case compelled reversal.