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Actus Reus: The Requirement of Voluntariness

Case: People v. Grant [360 N.E.2d 809; 1977] (App. Ct., Ill.) p. 134

Summary: Grant was convicted of aggravated battery for assaulting a police officer. His defense
was that he suffers from a medical condition (epilepsy/seizure) which prevents his conscious
mind from controlling his actions. The problem were the jury instructions which did not address
the alleged involuntary behavior, but only insanity. But the Df's claim is quite different from
insanity. You're insane, but you're still making the choice to move your body. So the court
remanded with the directions to the jury that he would not be held criminally liable unless he had
adequate prior notice to his susceptibility to engage in violent involuntary conduct brought on by
drinking alcohol or other conscious causal behavior.

RULE: If the conscious mind loses control over the body's acts, then the act in question was not
voluntary. However, if there is adequate prior notice of the person's susceptibility to engage in
violent involuntary conduct, and still acts consciously to cause that behavior, then those actions
are voluntary. (widen the "time-frame")

o Involuntary Acts
• MPC 2.01 excludes the following from the definition of a voluntary act:
 A reflex or convulsion
 A bodily movement during unconsciousness or sleep
 Conduct during hypnosis or resulting from hypnotic suggestion
 A bodily movement that otherwise is not a product of the effort or determination
of the actor, either conscious or habitual.

Class Notes
• People v. Decina - someone prone to epileptic seizure was driving, have a seizure while
driving and killed 4 people.
o Anticipating involuntariness - there was a history of seizure, they knew this could
 The voluntary act is the choice to drive even though there is a history of
seizure. So it is culpable.
o But, this doesn’t count if this is the first time some medical condition has
occurred. There was no warning so the act was involuntary.