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Effect of Intoxication in Criminal Defense

Even the most permissive society recognizes that voluntary intoxication will not be tolerated as an excuse or justification for anti-social behavior. Thus the law has consistently rejected as a defense the actor's assertion that "I would not have committed the deed if I had been sober." The cases are legion in this jurisdiction reaffirming the principle that voluntary intoxication neither exonerates nor excuses criminal conduct. Commonwealth v. Gordon, 490 Pa. 234, 416 A.2d 87 (1980)

Notwithstanding this firmly imbedded concept, it is evident that evidence of voluntarily inducedintoxication is not totally irrelevant in criminal cases. In some instances, intoxication is an element of the offense, e.g., driving under the influence, and therefore proof of intoxication (or some degree thereof) is necessary to prove the crime.[FN3] 75 Pa. C.S.A. s 3731. See alsoCommonwealth v. Horn, 395 Pa. 585, 150 A.2d 872 (1959)Commonwealth v. Palmer, 265 Pa.Super. 462, 402 A.2d 530 (1979).
It is also true that there are certain instances where intoxication is not an element of the offense, and yet evidence of intoxication is nevertheless accepted as being relevant. For instance, if the accused seeks to offer his intoxication to prove that he did not perform the physical act required by the crime that he was unconscious at the time and therefore did not commit the deed thisevidence is germane to the factfinders' inquiry and is properly submitted for their evaluation.

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