Elements of DUI: Corpus Delicti

Corpus Delicti

Before we get too far into the weeds, let’s take a look at the Corpus Delicti of DUI: [1]

  1. Driving

  2. A motor vehicle

  3. In this state

  4. While under the influence of alcohol/drugs

  5. Faculties to drive are materially and appreciably impaired


DUI Law

Case Law

“While evidence of the corpus delicti in a particular case must be established by the best proof attainable, direct evidence is not essential.  The corpus delicti may be sufficiently proved by presumptive or circumstantial evidence when that is the best obtainable.”  State v. Townsend, 321 S.C. 55, 57 (Ct. App. 1996) (citation omitted)


“The act of operating a motor vehicle with impaired faculties is the gravamen of the offense.  The corpus delicti of DUI is: (1) driving a vehicle; (2) within this State; (3) while under the influence of intoxicating liquors, drugs, or any other substance of like character.”  State v. Townsend, 321 S.C. 55, 58 (Ct. App. 1996) (citation omitted)

“Finally, we conclude the evidence presented by the State was sufficient to establish the corpus delicti of the crime, if believed. The corpus delicti of DUI based upon alcohol is: (1) driving a motor vehicle; (2) within this state; (3) while under the influence of alcohol to the extent that the person's faculties to drive are materially and appreciably impaired.  Russell admits that he was highly intoxicated from the time of the party through his arrest, such that his faculties were materially and appreciably impaired. We have already determined there was substantial independent evidence corroborating the fact that he was driving the car. The position and condition of the vehicle provides substantial circumstantial evidence that it was being operated in South Carolina. Therefore, the corpus delicti of the crime has been established.”  State v. Russell, 345 S.C. 128, 134 (Ct. App. 2001) (citations omitted)

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