Commonwealth v. Graves

461 Pa. 118, 334 A.2d 661 (1975)



The only permissible probative value evidence of intoxication may have in criminal proceedings is where it is relevant to the question of the capacity of the actor to have possessed the requisite intent of the crime charged. Where the legislature, in its definition of a crime, has designated a particular state of mind as a material element of the crime, evidence of intoxication becomes relevant if the degree of inebriation has reached that point where the mind was incapable of attaining the state of mind required.


Defendant was convicted by a jury for first degree murder, robbery and burglary. He committed the crimes while under the influence of a hallucinogenic pill and alcohol. A psychiatrist testified that both intoxicants deprived the defendant of proper conscious intent to kill and steal. The trial court ruled this as irrelevant to any crime other than homicide. On appeal, the defendant contended that the trial court erred when it concluded that evidence of intoxication was irrelevant as to defendant's robbery and burglary charges.


Is intoxication relevant to determine criminal intent in robbery and burglary?




The court held that the decision which had been relied upon by the trial court insofar as it suggested that evidence of intoxication offered for the purpose of negating the presence of specific intent may not be used in cases other than felonious homicide, was erroneous. The court also held that the trial court committed reversible error in refusing to permit evidence and to charge the jury as to the possible effect of defendant's consumption of alcohol and ingestion of drugs upon his capacity to form the requisite intent required in the charges of robbery and burglary. Further, in view of the fact that the jury was given the option to consider the case under a theory of felony-murder, the court held that the finding of murder in the first degree had to be overturned as well. Accordingly, the court reversed the convictions and awarded a new trial.

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