What Is Corpus Delicti?
The terminology ‘Corpus Delicti’ basically means ‘the body of the crime’ but in order to understand what it means, here is an example. Let’s say a man walks into the police department and tells an officer in charge that he killed his neighbor’s wife a few days ago. So should he be arrested for the crime?
The Corpus Delicti Rule means that before an arrest can be made, the state must prove that a crime has been committed. An out of court confession alone is not enough to arrest a person. In the scenario described, it could be that the man had a mental problem and was perhaps delusional, or the wife may have left on her own, or her husband may have had something to do with her disappearance. Without knowing what happened and without a body, the Corpus Delicti Rule states that the person should not be charged with a criminal offense.
The Corpus Delicti rule states that law enforcement or the prosecutor has the burden to independently prove that a crime has been committed. Corpus Delicti does not only apply to murder, but all types of crimes including burglary, theft, arson, false pretenses, larceny, conspiracy and more. If the rule of Corpus Delicti is not met or satisfied, then any confession, no matter how persuasive, cannot be entered as evidence in court.
Experts in law indicate that Corpus Delicti combines both a rule of evidence and a rule of substantive criminal law. It functions as a rule of evidence because it bans the admission of a particular piece of evidence, a confession, without having other any other proof. It is also viewed as a rule of substantive law because it deters a criminal conviction if the prosecution has not ‘looked for the body of evidence’ of corpus delicti.
Corpus Delicti Rule In Florida
In any criminal trial in the State of Florida, it is more than likely that a jury will never hear a word about the defendant’s confession, even it is obvious that the defendant knowingly, voluntarily and freely walked into the local police department or the prosecutor’s office, waived all his or her constitutional rights and provided complete details of the crime. In fact, if the state has no other evidence aside from this oral confession, the prosecutor in most likelihood will not even file criminal charges. An independent investigation is vital to corroborate what the defendant has stated before a criminal trial can proceed.
History And Rationale Of Corpus Delicti
Corpus Delicti is by no means a new legal concept. Its origins have been traced to England, where in 1661 three co-defendants were convicted of murder and executed chiefly based on the confessions of one defendant. The law enforcement never bothered to search for the victim’s body despite the confession. Tragically, the supposed murder victim turned up alive shortly after the men were executed. A similar scenario repeated itself in the early 1800s in the US. The US case that involved Jesse and Stephen Boorn, the men were just about to be executed when the supposedly dead victim showed up.
When the English Corpus Delicti rule was established, it was initially only limited to murder cases, but over the years, courts have extended its use in all types of criminal cases including DUI accident casess.
How Is Corpus Delicti Helpful To The Citizens Of Florida?
Corpus Delicti has several practical applications which include the following:
– It protects people who are mentally unstable or have low mental capacity from being wrongly convicted as a result of a false confession
– Protects individuals who are accused of a crime by false confessions of another person
– Ensures that innocent people are not convicted of a crime as result of involuntary confessions which may have been forced by overzealous detectives
– Ensures that law enforcement officers work through the ‘body of evidence’ beyond a verbal confession
Contact An Experienced Florida Criminal Defense Attorney
For residents of Florida, one cannot be charged with a crime just based on a verbal confession. The legal system in Florida has stated that no individual will be convicted simply because of a mistaken or coerced confession, and the onus is on law enforcement to independently verify the facts. So, if you have been accused of a crime just based on your verbal or someone else’s confession, you need to speak to a criminal defense attorney who can fight for your rights based on the Corpus Delicti Rule. Contact Frost Law to speak with experienced trial attorney and former state prosecutor, Chad Frost. Call (407) 670-5569 today for your free consultation and case review.