Corpus delicti Corpus Delicti

Corpus delicti Corpus Delicti

corpus delicti


Definitions of corpus delicti



the body of evidence that constitute the offence; the objective proof that a crime has been committed (sometimes mistakenly thought to refer to the body of a homicide victim)

Type of:

(law) all the means by which any alleged matter of fact whose truth is investigated at judicial trial is established or disproved

Word Family

Usage Examples

Sign up, it’s free!

Whether you’re a student, an educator, or a lifelong learner, can put you
on the path to systematic vocabulary improvement.

Get Started

Corpus delicti

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Jump to navigation
Jump to search

This article is about a legal term. For the Gothic rock band, see Corpus Delicti (band) .

Corpus delicti ( Latin : “body of the crime“; plural: corpora delicti) is a term from Western jurisprudence referring to the principle that a crime must be proved to have occurred before a person can be convicted of committing that crime.

For example, a person cannot be tried for larceny unless it can be proven that property has been stolen. Likewise, in order for a person to be tried for arson it must be proven that a criminal act resulted in the burning of a property. Black’s Law Dictionary (6th ed.) defines “corpus delicti as: “the fact of a crime having been actually committed”.

In the Anglo-American legal system , the concept has its outgrowth in several principles. Many jurisdictions hold as a legal rule that a defendant ‘s out-of-court confession, alone, is insufficient evidence to prove the defendant’s guilt beyond reasonable doubt. [1] A corollary to this rule is that an accused cannot be convicted solely upon the testimony of an accomplice. Some jurisdictions also hold that without first showing independent corroboration that a crime happened, the prosecution may not introduce evidence of the defendant’s statement.


  • 1 Murder investigation
  • 2 Specific offences
  • 3 Misinterpretation
  • 4 See also
  • 5 References
  • 6 External links

Murder investigation[ edit ]

Corpus delicti is one of the most important concepts in a murder investigation. When a person disappears and cannot be contacted, many police agencies initiate a missing person case. If, during the course of the investigation, detectives believe that he/she has been murdered, then a “body” of evidentiary items, including physical, demonstrative and testimonial evidence, must be obtained to establish that the missing individual has indeed been murdered before a suspect can be charged with homicide . [2] The best and easiest evidence establishment in these cases is the physical body of the deceased. However, in the event that a physical body is not present or has not yet been discovered, it is possible to prove a crime took place if sufficient circumstantial evidence is presented to prove the matter beyond a reasonable doubt . [3] For example, the presence at a missing person’s home of spilled human blood, identifiable as that person’s, in sufficient quantity to indicate exsanguination , demonstrates—even in the absence of a corpse—that the possibility that no crime has occurred, and the missing person is merely missing, is not reasonably credible.

Specific offences[ edit ]

In general, all corpus delicti requires at a minimum:

  1. The occurrence of the specific injury; and
  2. some criminal act as the source of the injury.

For example:

  • Homicide: 1) An individual has died 2) as a result of action (or inaction) by another person.
  • Larceny: 1) Property is missing 2) because it was stolen.

In essence corpus delicti of crimes refers to evidence that a violation of law occurred, no literal ‘body’ is needed.

Rights are of two kinds, namely “of the person” ( jura personarum ) and “to control external objects” ( jura rerum ).

Wrongs are also of two kinds and they are either public or private. Public wrongs are called crimes or public offenses whereas private wrongs are called torts and either involve the breach of a duty of care, a wrongful trespass against the person or property of another, and breaches of agreement or contract. This difference forms the distinction between criminal law (regarding crime) and civil law (regarding torts).

For a more in-depth explanation, see Sir William Blackstone’s Commentaries , Book 1 beginning about page 52.

Misinterpretation[ edit ]

The British serial killer John George Haigh destroyed the bodies of his victims with acid apparently because he thought that, in the absence of a corpse , murder could not be proven because there was no corpus delicti. Haigh had misinterpreted the Latin word corpus as a literal body rather than a figurative one. This had previously been the case, under Lord Hale’s Rule of “no body, no crime”, but in the twentieth century, the law expanded to allow prosecution for murder solely on circumstantial evidence.

See also[ edit ]

  • Corroboration in Scots law
  • Element (criminal law)
  • Murder conviction without a body

References[ edit ]

  1. ^ See, e.g., Wong Sun v. United States, 371 U.S. 471, 497 n.14, 83 S.Ct. 407, 9 L.Ed.2d 441 (1963 (citing to corpus delicti rule and stating: “For the history and development of the corroboration requirement, see 7 Wigmore, Evidence [3d ed. 1940], §§ 2070–2071; Note, Proof of the Corpus Delicti Aliunde the Defendant’s Confession, 103 U. of Pa. L. Rev. 638–649 [1955]. For the present scope and application of the rule, see 2 Underhill, Criminal Evidence [5th ed. 1956], §§ 402–403. For a comprehensive collection of cases, see Annot., 45 A. L. R.2d 1316 [1956].”)
  2. ^ Press, Margaret. A Scream on the Water: A True Story of Murder in Salem.

  3. ^ B. Berg, Criminal Investigation, McGraw-Hill Humanities/Social Sciences/Languages, 2007

External links[ edit ]

  • The dictionary definition of corpus delicti at Wiktionary
  • v
  • t
  • e
Core subjects
  • Administrative law
  • Civil law
  • Constitutional law
  • Contract
  • Criminal law
  • Deed
  • Equity
  • Evidence
  • International law
  • Law of obligations
  • Procedure
    • Civil
    • Criminal
  • Property law
  • Public law
  • Restitution
  • Statutory law
  • Tort
Other subjects
  • Agricultural law
  • Aviation law
  • Banking law
  • Bankruptcy
  • Commercial law
  • Competition law
  • Conflict of laws
  • Construction law
  • Consumer protection
  • Corporate law
  • Cyberlaw
  • Election law
  • Energy law
  • Entertainment law
  • Environmental law
  • Family law
  • Financial law
  • Financial regulation
  • Health law
  • Immigration law
  • Intellectual property
  • International criminal law
  • International human rights
  • International slavery laws
  • Labour
  • Law of war
  • Legal archaeology
  • Legal fiction
  • Maritime law
  • Media law
  • Military law
  • Probate
    • Estate
    • Will and testament
  • Product liability
  • Public international law
  • Space law
  • Sports law
  • Tax law
  • Transport law
  • Trust law
  • Women in law
Sources of law
  • Charter
  • Constitution
  • Custom
  • Divine right
    • Divine law
  • Human rights
  • Natural and legal rights
  • Case law
    • Precedent
Law making
  • Ballot measure
  • Codification
  • Decree
    • Edict
    • Executive order
    • Proclamation
  • Legislation
    • Delegated legislation
    • Regulation
    • Rulemaking
  • Promulgation
  • Repeal
  • Treaty
  • Statutory law
    • Statute
    • Act of Parliament
    • Act of Congress (US)
Legal systems
  • Civil law
  • Common law
  • Chinese law
  • Legal pluralism
  • Religious law
    • Canon law
    • Hindu law
    • Jain law
    • Jewish law
    • Sharia
  • Roman law
  • Socialist law
  • Statutory law
  • Xeer
  • Yassa
Legal theory
  • Critical legal studies
  • Comparative law
  • Feminist
  • Law and economics
  • Legal formalism
  • History
  • Natural law
  • International legal theory
  • Principle of legality
  • Rule of law
  • Sociology
  • Adjudication
  • Administration of justice
  • Criminal justice
  • Court-martial
  • Dispute resolution
  • Fiqh
  • Lawsuit/Litigation
  • Legal opinion
  • Legal remedy
  • Judge
    • Justice of the peace
    • Magistrate
  • Judgment
  • Judicial review
  • Jurisdiction
  • Jury
  • Justice
  • Practice of law
    • Attorney
    • Barrister
    • Counsel
    • Lawyer
    • Legal representation
    • Prosecutor
    • Solicitor
  • Question of fact
  • Question of law
  • Trial
  • Trial advocacy
  • Trier of fact
  • Verdict
Legal institutions
  • Bureaucracy
  • The bar
  • The bench
  • Civil society
  • Court
  • Election commission
  • Executive
  • Judiciary
  • Law enforcement
  • Legal education
    • Law school
  • Legislature
  • Military
  • Police
  • Political party
  • Tribunal
  • Category
  • Index
  • Outline
  • Portal


Retrieved from ” ”
Categories :

  • Criminal law
  • Evidence law
  • Latin legal terminology

Navigation menu

Personal tools

  • Not logged in
  • Talk
  • Contributions
  • Create account
  • Log in


  • Article
  • Talk



    • Read
    • Edit
    • View history



      • Main page
      • Contents
      • Featured content
      • Current events
      • Random article
      • Donate to Wikipedia
      • Wikipedia store


      • Help
      • About Wikipedia
      • Community portal
      • Recent changes
      • Contact page


      • What links here
      • Related changes
      • Upload file
      • Special pages
      • Permanent link
      • Page information
      • Wikidata item
      • Cite this page


      • Create a book
      • Download as PDF
      • Printable version


      • Čeština
      • Deutsch
      • Galego
      • 한국어
      • हिन्दी
      • Bahasa Melayu
      • Nederlands
      • Norsk
      • ਪੰਜਾਬੀ
      • Polski
      • Português
      • Slovenčina
      • Svenska
      • Українська
      • 中文
      Edit links

      • This page was last edited on 11 July 2018, at 09:14 (UTC).
      • Text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License ;
        additional terms may apply. By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy . Wikipedia® is a registered trademark of the Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. , a non-profit organization.
      • Privacy policy
      • About Wikipedia
      • Disclaimers
      • Contact Wikipedia
      • Developers
      • Cookie statement
      • Mobile view
      • Wikimedia Foundation
      • Powered by MediaWiki

      Sign Up
      Log In

      Definition of ‘corpus delicti’

      Word Frequency

      corpus delicti in British




      the body of facts that constitute an offence

      Collins English Dictionary. Copyright © HarperCollins Publishers
      Word origin of ‘corpus delicti’

      New Latin, literally: the body of the crime

      Word Frequency

      corpus delicti in American

      ; dəlikˈtīˌ; dɪˈlɪkˌti
      ; dilikˈtēˌ)


      the facts constituting or proving a crime ; material substance or foundation of a crime: the corpus delicti in a murder case is not just the body of the victim , but the fact that the victim has been murdered
      2.  Loosely

      the body of the victim in a murder case
      Webster’s New World College Dictionary, 4th Edition. Copyright © 2010 by
      Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. All rights reserved.
      Word origin of ‘corpus delicti’

      ModL, lit., body of the crime

      Word Lists

      Law terms

      Trends of ‘corpus delicti’

      Used Rarely. corpus delicti is in the lower 50% of commonly used words in the Collins dictionary

      View usage for:

      Nearby words of ‘corpus delicti’

      • corpus callosum
      • corpus cavernosum
      • Corpus Christi
      • corpus delicti
      • corpus juris
      • Corpus Juris Canonici
      • Corpus Juris Civilis

      • All ENGLISH words that begin with ‘C’


      Definition of corpus delicti from the
      Collins English Dictionary


      Possessives are used to specify the ownership of an item, or, if the noun refers to something animate, to specify a relationship. That is my car . Mr Smith was my teacher in the sixth form. The…
      Read more about ‘Possessives’
      Word of the day:
      A quadrangle is an open square area with buildings round it, especially in a college or school .
      See full definition
      Collins Dictionaries for Schools
      Our new online dictionaries for schools provide a safe and appropriate environment for children. And best of all it’s ad free, so sign up now and start using at home or in the classroom.
      Read more
      Unlock language with the Paul Noble method
      No books. No rote memorization. No chance of failure. Your chance to have a one-to-one lesson with best-selling language expert Paul Noble, try a FREE audio sample of his brand new Mandarin Chinese course.
      Read more
      13th edition of the Collins Dictionary out now!
      Updated with all the very latest new words and senses, this new 13th edition is an unparalleled resource for word lovers, word gamers, and word geeks everywhere.
      Read more
      Word lists
      We have almost 200 lists of words from topics as varied as types of butterflies, jackets, currencies, vegetables and knots!
      Amaze your friends with your new-found knowledge!
      Read more
      Meme Ban, Heart Age & Collagin: September’s Words in the News
      Catch up on the latest words in the news this September with Robert Groves.
      Read more
      Join the Collins community
      All the latest wordy news, linguistic insights, offers and competitions every month.
      Read more
      Latest Word Submissions
      Armageddon (chess)
      property guardian

      View More

      Create an account and sign in to access this FREE content
      Register now or login in to access