Say Person A is very drunk and tried to attacked Person B, but Person B dodged, and Person C got hit. Person C had a pre-existing medical condition and died as a result of Person A's action.

If the defendant uses the defense of intoxication and it is believed that the defendant lacks the required mens rea, is the doctrine of transferred malice is still relevant? Because the doctrine of transferred malice only applies when the defendant has the required mens rea? So when I am writing my analysis I need not mention the doctrine of transferred malice?

And if the defendant uses the defense of intoxication, then he is more likely to be convicted of manslaughter, a basic intent offence in this situation right? As a murder is a specific intent offence and after the case of DPP v Beard (1920) it is unlikely that the defendant will be convicted of murder?

I just want to make sure my analysis is correct.

  • As other discussion in the answer given explain, the answer is quite jurisdiction dependent. – ohwilleke Aug 17 '17 at 3:30
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    Which jurisdiction? Around here, the only "intoxication defense" is involuntary intoxication. – Mark Nov 15 '17 at 1:59

In what benighted part of the world are you? There is no defence of "intoxication" in any part of, say, Australia: the last jurisdiction to abolish it was the ACT in the 1990s. In Australian criminal law, you are responsible for your actions no matter how much you chose to drink.

Of course, if you can prove that you became intoxicated by someone else's actions (a spiked drink?) that may be taken into account.

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  • I think in the UK intoxication is a defence for specific intent offences, such as murder. A conviction of murder is very unlikely if the defendant was intoxicated when he committed the crime. DDP v Beard (1920) – asidhasoidj Jul 17 '17 at 23:04
  • @tomlula it appears the UK is still using a common law approach - Australia has removed the defence by statute. – Dale M Jul 17 '17 at 23:23
  • Germany says: Being intoxicated counts as "mitigating circumstances". Even if you are accused of drink driving. Unless you caused the intoxication yourself, then it doesn't count. @asidhasoidj: I'll try to remember that. If you want to kill someone, get drunk first. – gnasher729 Jul 18 '17 at 12:17
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    @gnasher729 the first requirement to use intoxication as a defence is that you lack mens rea. If you were intoxicated when you committed the offence but you would have had the mens rea if you had been sober, criminal liability can still be imposed. R v richardson and Irwin 1999. This area of law is complicated. – asidhasoidj Jul 18 '17 at 12:25
  • Most U.S. states would not allow intoxication to be a defense and many have statutorily abolished the argument that intoxication deprived you of the necessary mens rea. Also, in the fact pattern presented, if you were sober enough to try to hit one guy, you have enough mens rea for transferred intent to apply the same conscious desire to harm to the other guy you actually hit. At best, you get heat of passion murder which is more serious than manslaughter (which is reckless mens rea) in many states based on the Model Penal Code. – ohwilleke Aug 17 '17 at 3:29

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