Brief Fact Summary. Appellant argued that he was unconscious when he committed the crimes he was charged with.
Synopsis of Rule of Law. Unconsciousness or automatism is a complete defense to a criminal charge and is an affirmative defense that the burden is with the defendant to establish this defense.
Issue. Whether there exists the defense of unconsciousness as a complete defense to a criminal charge.
Held. Although the trial judge was in error, it was not prejudicial and does not afford a basis for a new trial.
The defense of unconsciousness is separate from the defense of insanity and the result is that if the defendant is found to be unconscious, he can be found not guilty and is not subject to commitment in a mental hospital.
The burden of proving the defense of proving unconsciousness rests with the defendant.
Dissent. The dissent concurred on the result but dissented on the reasoning and allowance of unconsciousness of a defense. The dissent argued that unconscious actions are not voluntary and thus there is no burden on the defendant to prove unconsciousness as a defense, rather the burden is on the State to prove that the acts were voluntary that constituted the crime. The dissent concluded that unconsciousness is never an affirmative defense.
Discussion. The Court first overruled one prior case that ruled that unconsciousness was not an affirmative defense. The Court next analyzed how the defendant could present such a defense. It concluded that the burden would rest on the defendant to present evidence of unconsciousness through medical testimony or alternative means.