Corpus Delicti refers to the legal principle that evidence independent of a defendant's out of court statements or the testimony of an accomplice must prove a crime was committed before a defendant can be convicted of that crime. Corpus Delicti is a Latin phrase meaning the body of the offense or crime. For example, a person cannot be convicted of Shoplifting unless the prosecutor can demonstrate the property was stolen.
In order for a person to be convicted of Battery, the prosecutor must prove the defendant hit, battered, or inappropriately used force on another person. In criminal homicide cases, a crime can be proven without the actual body of the deceased being recovered, but a defendant's confession alone is not enough to convict.
The corpus delicti of a crime involves two elements:
- An injury, loss, or harm; and
- The injury or loss is the result of someone's criminal act.
The identity of the person who committed the crime is not necessarily part of the corpus delicti; only that a crime was committed. The Corpus Delicti rule is sometimes referred to informally among lawyers and judges as the "Corpus/Cop Out" rule; the "cop-out" referring to the suspect's alleged confession or admission.
Consult with a criminal defense attorney if you or someone you know is facing criminal charges and you need to know about corpus delicti.