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Pennsylvania Court Discusses Corpus Delecti in DUI Cases

Under Pennsylvania law, people can be convicted of DUI crimes even if they are not observed driving while intoxicated. The prosecution must nonetheless prove that a crime actually occurred in order to prove a DUI defendant’s guilt, though, and if they cannot, the charges against the defendant should be dismissed. This concept, known as corpus delecti, was the topic of a recent Pennsylvania ruling in which the court upheld the defendant’s DUI conviction. If you are charged with a DUI crime, it is prudent to confer with a Pennsylvania DUI defense lawyer to determine what defenses you may be able to set forth.

The Facts of the Case

It is reported that the police responded to a call indicating there was a vehicle on the side of a highway. When they arrived at the scene, they found the defendant standing on the side of the road with a gash and a lump on his head. When they spoke with him, he smelled of alcohol and was unsteady on his feet. He stated he had been drinking earlier in the day and had driven to his current location.

It is alleged that the defendant was taken to the hospital, where he consented to a blood draw which revealed his BAC to be over twice the legal limit. He was charged with DUI – the highest rate. He moved to have his incriminating statements precluded from evidence pursuant to the corpus delecti rule, but the court denied his motion. He was convicted, after which he appealed.

Corpus Delecti in Pennsylvania DUI Cases

The appellate court affirmed the defendant’s conviction on appeal. The appellate court explained that the corpus delecti rule is a rule of evidence that places the burden on the prosecution to prove that a crime actually occurred before a criminal defendant’s admission or confession connecting them to a crime can be admitted into evidence.

Corpus delecti literally means the body of the crime; it demands proof that an injury or loss arose out of someone’s unlawful conduct. Corpus delecti can be established by circumstantial evidence; establishing corpus delecti is a two-step process, however. First, the trial court must admit the statements in question, and second, the fact finder must consider those statements. Such statements will only be admitted if the prosecution establishes corpus delecti by a preponderance of the evidence, and the factfinder can only consider the statements if the prosecution establishes corpus delecti beyond a reasonable doubt. In the subject case, the appellate court found that the circumstantial evidence was sufficient to show a crime had been committed; therefore, it ruled the defendant’s conviction must stand.

Speak to a Trusted Pennsylvania DUI Defense Attorney

The prosecution bears the burden of proof in DUI cases, and if they cannot demonstrate the defendant committed each element of the charged offense, they should not be able to obtain a conviction. If you are accused of committing a DUI crime it is essential to speak to an attorney as soon as possible. Zachary B. Cooper is a trusted Pennsylvania DUI defense lawyer with the knowledge and experience needed to help you seek a good outcome, and if you hire him, he will advocate zealously on your behalf. You can contact Mr. Cooper via the form online or at (215) 542-0800 to set up a conference.