Burks v. State, 79122

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Florida
Writing for the CourtPER CURIAM; BARKETT; McDONALD, J., concurs specially with an opinion, in which BARKETT; SHAW; McDONALD; BARKETT; SHAW
Citation613 So.2d 441
Parties18 Fla. L. Week. S71 Calvin Earl BURKS, Petitioner, v. STATE of Florida, Respondent.
Docket NumberNo. 79122,79122
Decision Date21 January 1993

Page 441

613 So.2d 441
18 Fla. L. Week. S71
Calvin Earl BURKS, Petitioner,
v.
STATE of Florida, Respondent.
No. 79122.
Supreme Court of Florida.
Jan. 21, 1993.

Page 442

Jeffrey L. Dees, Ormond Beach, for petitioner.

Robert A. Butterworth, Atty. Gen., and Judy Taylor Rush, Nancy Ryan and Barbara C. Davis, Asst. Attys. Gen., Daytona Beach, for respondent.

PER CURIAM.

We review Burks v. State, 589 So.2d 355, 358 (Fla. 5th DCA 1991), in which the district court certified the question:

MAY THE STATE OFFER IN EVIDENCE AN ADMISSION AGAINST INTEREST TO ESTABLISH ONE OF THE ELEMENTS OF THE CHARGED OFFENSE IN THE ABSENCE OF AN INDEPENDENTLY ESTABLISHED CORPUS DELICTI?

We have jurisdiction. Art. V, Sec. 3(b)(4), Fla.Const. We answer the certified question in the negative but approve the decision below because the elements of the crime charged were independently established.

The district court affirmed Burks' conviction for "driving under the influence" manslaughter. 1 The facts are reported in the district court opinion:

[On the morning of February 15, 1990,] Florida Highway Patrol Trooper C.W. Heaton was dispatched to the scene of a traffic accident. When he arrived he found a tractor-trailer blocking both northbound lanes of U.S. Highway 17. A motorcycle was lying in the roadway, and the body of the motorcyclist was lying near the truck.

Heaton was advised at the scene that Calvin Burks, standing outside the truck, had been the driver of the truck. Heaton conducted a traffic investigation in order to complete an accident report as required by section 316.066(4), Florida Statutes (1989). He then advised Burks that he was terminating the traffic investigation and was about to conduct a criminal investigation. He gave Burks the Miranda warnings and conducted a criminal investigation. During the criminal investigation, Burks admitted that he was the driver of the truck and that he had been drinking heavily all evening. He was subsequently taken to the hospital for a blood test. His blood alcohol level was .14.

Burks was convicted of DUI manslaughter. He appeals contending that the corpus delicti was not established prior to admitting into evidence his admission that he was the driver of the truck; i.e., there was no evidence, other than his admission, direct or circumstantial, that placed him behind the wheel of the truck. We disagree.

....

There is another reason why we affirm. We state it by footnote because we do not wish to detract from the issue

Page 443

that we hope the supreme court will address. In the case at bar there was other evidence that appellant was the driver. The trooper testified, without objection, that appellant's supervisor came to the scene and inquired if appellant "could drive his vehicle away and continue on his run."

Id. at 356 & 357 n. 4 (footnote omitted).

Ballentine's Law Dictionary 276 (3d ed. 1969) defines corpus delicti as "the fact that a crime has actually been committed, that someone is criminally responsible." 2

We held, in State v. Allen, 335 So.2d 823, 824 (Fla.1976), that "the state has the burden of proving by substantial evidence that a crime was committed, and that such proof may be in the form of circumstantial evidence." "This standard does not require the proof to be uncontradicted or overwhelming, but it must at least show the existence of each element of the crime." Id. at 825. We also determined that the identity of the defendant as the guilty party is not a necessary predicate for the admission of a confession. We explained the policy reasons for the corpus delicti rule: "The judicial quest for truth requires that no person be convicted out of derangement, mistake or official fabrication." Id. at 825. In the instant case, the corpus delicti was established, as noted by the district court. Burks, 589 So.2d at 357 n. 4. Burks' speech was slurred, his eyes were bloodshot, he smelled strongly of alcohol; there was a dead body on the road; a truck was illegally blocking the highway; Burks' supervisor asked if Burks could drive his vehicle away and continue on his run. These facts were sufficient to remove the danger of Burks being "convicted out of derangement, mistake or official fabrication." Allen, 335 So.2d at 825.

Burks also claims that the district court erred in characterizing his "confession" as an "admission against interest," 3 thereby

Page 444

finding the statements admissible. We agree with Burks that nomenclature is not dispositive. We said in Allen:

The sole contention of Allen was that, before his confession was admitted, the state had not proved he was driving the vehicle from which Curtis Black was thrown and killed. This question is relevant, since there would have been no crime if Black had been the driver.

Allen, 335 So.2d at 825. Thus although we used the term "confession" in Allen, it is clear we were, in fact, dealing with an admission, not a confession.

We likewise held in Hodges v. State, 176 So.2d 91, 92 (Fla.1965), where "admissions against interest" were involved, that a new trial was required because "the fact that the crime of larceny had occurred could not be established by the other evidence introduced without the aid of the admission." Id. at 93 (emphasis added). To the same effect is Deiterle v. State, 101 Fla. 79, 80, 134 So. 42, 43 (1931), which held that: "The corpus delicti cannot be proven solely by a confession or admission." (Emphasis added.)

The error in exempting admissions from the corpus delicti rule is harmless, however, because, as stated above, all the elements of the crime 4 were proved by direct or circumstantial evidence 5 without dependence on Burks' statements. The cross-examination of Officer Heaton established that Burks' supervisor asked if Burks could drive his vehicle away and continue on his run. This statement and the reasonable inferences that flow from it put Burks behind the wheel independently of his own statements.

The State cites Parrish v. State, 90 Fla. 25, 105 So. 130 (1925), as authority for admitting admissions without proving the corpus delicti because we said there that the two can be treated differently. We note however that our distinction was in the context of the defendant's assertion that the admissions were not voluntarily given, not that the corpus delicti had not been proved.

We therefore approve the result below although we disapprove of its reasoning. 6

It is so ordered.

BARKETT, C.J., and OVERTON, GRIMES, KOGAN and HARDING, JJ., concur.

McDONALD, J., concurs specially with an opinion, in which BARKETT, C.J., concurs.

SHAW, J., concurs in part and dissents in part with an opinion.

Page 445

McDONALD, Justice, specially concurring.

I question whether we should answer the certified question at all because in this case the corpus delicti had clearly been established separate and apart from Burks' statement.

I tend to believe that it is a good rule to require proof that a crime has been committed by means other...

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52 practice notes
  • Williams v. State, No. 95-2301
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Florida (US)
    • March 5, 1997
    ...person be convicted out of derangement, mistake or official fabrication." State v. Allen, 335 So.2d 823, 825 (Fla.1976); Burks v. State, 613 So.2d 441, 443 The corpus delicti for homicide requires independent direct or circumstantial proof of three elements: a person's death, the criminal a......
  • Franqui v. State, No. 83116
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Florida
    • June 26, 1997
    ...In regard to the first part--that a crime was committed--each element of the relevant offense must be shown to exist. Burks v. State, 613 So.2d 441, 443 (Fla.1993). With respect to the second part--the criminal agency of another--the proof need not show the specific identity of the person w......
  • Corona v. State , No. SC06–1054.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Florida
    • June 9, 2011
    ...Thus, Corona's statements or confession could not be properly admitted into evidence under the corpus delicti rule. See Burks v. State, 613 So.2d 441, 444 (Fla.1993) (“The corpus delicti cannot be proven solely by a confession or admission.”) (quoting Deiterle v. State, 101 Fla. 79, 134 So.......
  • McArthur v. State, No. 5D00-1980.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Florida (US)
    • September 21, 2001
    ...or substance of the crime, which is generally said to include two elements: the act and the criminal agency of the act. Burks v. State, 613 So.2d 441, 443 n. 2 (Fla.1993). Recently, however, the Supreme Court of Florida has also suggested that proof that a criminal act was committed require......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
52 cases
  • Williams v. State, No. 95-2301
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Florida (US)
    • March 5, 1997
    ...person be convicted out of derangement, mistake or official fabrication." State v. Allen, 335 So.2d 823, 825 (Fla.1976); Burks v. State, 613 So.2d 441, 443 The corpus delicti for homicide requires independent direct or circumstantial proof of three elements: a person's death, the criminal a......
  • Franqui v. State, No. 83116
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Florida
    • June 26, 1997
    ...In regard to the first part--that a crime was committed--each element of the relevant offense must be shown to exist. Burks v. State, 613 So.2d 441, 443 (Fla.1993). With respect to the second part--the criminal agency of another--the proof need not show the specific identity of the person w......
  • Corona v. State , No. SC06–1054.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Florida
    • June 9, 2011
    ...Thus, Corona's statements or confession could not be properly admitted into evidence under the corpus delicti rule. See Burks v. State, 613 So.2d 441, 444 (Fla.1993) (“The corpus delicti cannot be proven solely by a confession or admission.”) (quoting Deiterle v. State, 101 Fla. 79, 134 So.......
  • McArthur v. State, No. 5D00-1980.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Florida (US)
    • September 21, 2001
    ...or substance of the crime, which is generally said to include two elements: the act and the criminal agency of the act. Burks v. State, 613 So.2d 441, 443 n. 2 (Fla.1993). Recently, however, the Supreme Court of Florida has also suggested that proof that a criminal act was committed require......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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