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People v. Hood

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    Bloomberg Law

    Citation. C066289, 2011 BL 323913 (Cal. Ct. App. Dec. 21, 2011)

    Brief Fact Summary. The intoxicated Defendant, Hood (Defendant), was resisting arrest and during the course of the struggle with the officer, took the officer’s gun and shot him in the legs. The Defendant was convicted of assault with a deadly weapon upon a peace officer and assault with intent to murder the officer. The convictions were reversed due to a lack of proper instruction by the court and because the trial court gave conflicting instructions on intoxication.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law. Voluntary intoxication is not a defense to the crime of assault.


    Facts. The Defendant, who was drinking heavily, resisted efforts by the police to arrest him. During the course of the struggle, the Defendant took the police officer’s gun and shot him in the legs. The Defendant was convicted of assault with a deadly weapon upon a peace officer and assault with intent to murder the officer. These convictions were reversed by the Supreme Court of California due to a lack of proper instruction on the lesser included crime of simple assault and because the trial court gave conflicting instructions on the effect of intoxication. The Court considered the effect of intoxication on the crime of assault with a deadly weapon in order to assist the trial court on retrial.

    Issue. Can voluntary intoxication be used to negate the necessary mens rea for the crime of assault?

    Held. No. Judgment of the trial court reversed. Chief Judge Traynor delivered the opinion of the court. There is a general notion that a person who becomes voluntarily intoxicated and commits a crime while in that state of intoxication should not be exonerated. However, voluntary intoxication can be a defense in crimes that have traditionally been characterized as crimes of specific intent. There is uncertainty over whether assault is a crime of intention or also one of recklessness. The definitions of both specific intent and general intent cover the requisite intent to commit a battery. Whatever nuances the court has in distinguishing between specific and general intent to determine whether intoxication constitutes a defense, the offense of assault cannot be negated by a demonstration of voluntary intoxication.

    Discussion. An individual who is intoxicated can form the requisite intent to commit the crime of assault. What he is incapable of doing is determining good judgment about the social consequences of his acts or controlling impulses toward socially unacceptable acts.


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