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United States v. Veach

    Brief Fact Summary. After having an accident, Veach resisted arrest and threatened federal law enforcement officers. He was convicted for resisting a federal law enforcement officer under 18 U.S.C. Section 111(a)(1), and for threatening to assault and murder a federal law enforcement officer in order to prevent the officer from carrying out his official duties under 18 U.S.C. Section 115(a)(1)(B). He argued that the trial court should have included his defense of voluntary intoxication.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law. (1) Voluntary intoxication is  not a permissible defense to the crime of resisting a federal law enforcement officer, 18 U.S.C. Section 111(a)(1).
    (2) Voluntary intoxication is a defense to the crime of threatening to assault and murder a federal law enforcement officer in order to prevent him from carrying out his official duties, 18 U.S.C. Section 115(a)(1)B).

    Facts. Veach’s automobile collided with another vehicle in a national park. The U.S. Park Rangers suspected and tested for intoxication by field tests and a portable breath analysis, which all confirmed it. While  he was being made ready for transport, he tried to pull away from them which made one of the officers fall, and also repeatedly threatened to kill them and chop off their heads, both then and while he was being taken from hospital to the detention center. The jury found that he was guilty of resisting a federal law enforcement officer under 18 U.S.C. Section 111(a)(1), and for threatening to assault and murder a federal law enforcement officer in order to prevent the officer from carrying out his official duties under 18 U.S.C. Section 115(a)(1)(B).the trial court allowed the government motion to ban the introduction of evidence citing voluntary intoxication. The court of appeals granted review.

    Issue. 1) Is voluntary intoxication a permissible defense to the crime of resisting a federal law enforcement officer, 18 U.S.C. Section 111(a)(1)?
    (2) Is voluntary intoxication a defense to the crime of threatening to assault and murder a federal law enforcement officer in order to prevent him from carrying out his official duties, 18 U.S.C. Section 115(a)(1)B)?

    Held. (Daughtrey, J.)
    (1) No. (1) Voluntary intoxication is not a permissible defense to the crime of resisting a federal law enforcement officer, 18 U.S.C. Section 111(a)(1). Intoxication can be voluntary or involuntary, but it can only prevent the commission of specific-intent crimes since it may prove that specific intent was lacking. However, Section 111 is concerned only with the crime on forcibly assaulting, resisting, opposing, impeding in the performance of his duties, intimidating or interfering with a designated officer. It is not necessary to show the existence of any other intent, since the voluntary performance of this prohibited act is enough to bring down criminal liability under federal law on the actor. Thus this is a general-intent crime, and voluntary intoxication is not a viable defense. The verdict is affirmed as to this question.
    (2) Yes. Voluntary intoxication is a defense to the crime of threatening to assault and murder a federal law enforcement officer in order to prevent him from carrying out his official duties, 18 U.S.C. Section 115(a)(1)B). This statute does require specific intent to commit this particular crime. The Government needs to establish beyond all reasonable doubt the threat made against its official by the defendant and also that the defendant had the specific purpose of thus impairing the official’s performance of his duties or taking revenge for the official’s carrying out of his duties. Since the defendant would require to have been possessed of the mensrea to be guilty of these crimes, he should have been allowed to present evidence that his intoxication level prevented him from having the mensrea to form such a specific intent. The verdict is reversed and the case remanded with respect to this question.

    Dissent. N/A

    Concurrence. N/A

    Discussion. Many states now follow a trend to disallow voluntary intoxication as a trend. In such cases, the defendant will have to prove involuntary intoxication to prove the absence of intent. The Model Penal Code Section 2.08 (1) provides for intoxication as a defense if it eliminates some element of the crime, and thus it does not differentiate between specific and general intent as in this case.


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