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Capacity for Mens Rea - Voluntary Intoxication

Case: State v. Cameron, 514 A.2d 1302 (1986); [p. 252-255]

Facts: Δ, intoxicated, approached the victim, who was playing cards, and was very disruptive. She then
attacked the victim with a broken bottle, and cut his hand. When the police arrived, she was very violent toward
them too. Δ was convicted of second degree aggravated assault. The appellate court reversed the conviction
because lower court erroneously failed to give an intoxication charge.

Holding: Court agrees that voluntary intoxication is a defense, but only when it negates an essential element of
the offense - which here is purposeful conduct. However, this court reversed the appellate court's decision that
Δ's intoxication defense should have been submitted into evidence. At common law, voluntary intoxication was
a defense only when it negated specific intent, but the charges here called for general intent. The court describes
specific intent as purpose or knowledge, and general intent as recklessness or criminal negligence. Therefore,
intoxication defense only applies when it negates purpose or knowledge, but not recklessness or negligence.

Class Notes
Pg. 253 - intoxication of Δ is not a defense unless it negates an element of the defense. This doesn’t apply when
statute only calls for recklessness.


Notes: [p. 255]

• MPC rejects the specific/general distinction, but allows consideration of evidence of intoxication only to
negate certain levels of culpability.
o Voluntary intoxication is not a defense unless it negates an element of the offense
o If culpability is recklessness, cannot use this defense. MPC says that if the actor, because of
intoxication, is unaware of risk they would have been aware if sober, the unawareness is
• State v. Warren, - court says as a matter of logic, intoxication that negates purpose or knowledge should
also negate recklessness. However, as a matter of policy, intoxication is not a defense for recklessness.