Is circumstantial evidence that a crime has been committed sufficient to sustain a conviction?
No. However, circumstantial evidence may be sufficient where the totality of the circumstances are, in the last analysis, inconsistent with a reasonable hypothesis of innocence. It becomes a matter of fact for the jury to decide.
LexisNexis Headnote 1: Types of Evidence, Circumstantial Evidence A conviction upon circumstantial evidence alone is not to be sustained unless the circumstances are inconsistent with any reasonable hypothesis of innocence.
A Maryland state trooper responded to a complaint of a suspicious car and found defendant sleeping in his car in a driveway with the motor running. The policeman awoke defendant, who was confused and disoriented. Defendant had an open can of beer between his legs and empty cans in the car. Defendant smelled of alcohol and an examination of his driver's license revealed an alcohol restriction. Defendant was convicted of driving while intoxicated. He appealed, challenging the sufficiency of the evidence presented by the prosecution. Defendant argued that there was no evidence that he had left the driveway and that all the evidence against him was circumstantial.
The court reasoned that the fact that defendant was in a car with beer cans indicated that he was leaving the driveway. Also, the court concluded that the police would not have been contacted if defendant had just entered the car in the driveway. Thus, it was more likely that he had been observed driving in the neighborhood. Defendant's conviction was affirmed.