DPP v Majewski – Case Brief
Director of Public Prosecutions v Majewski, House of Lords, 2 All E.R. 142 (1976).
Facts: Majewski (D) and a friend went to the Bull public house in Basildon. Both men were drunk and Majewski was under the influence of barbiturates and amphetamines. Majewski’s friend became involved in an altercation and Majewski came to his defense. The landlord ordered both of them to depart and Majewski refused, striking the landlord in the face. Majewski asserted that he had been too intoxicated to remember the incident and therefore could not have developed the mens rea to commit the offense. Majewski was convicted and appealed.
Issue: Is voluntary intoxication a defense to general intent crimes?
Holding and Rule (Lord Elwyn-Jones): No. Voluntary intoxication is not a defense to general intent crimes.
Assault is a basic intent (i.e. general intent) crime. If a man deliberately consumes alcohol and drugs and becomes unable to take the care that he normally would, he may not then assert that he did not know what he was doing. The act of taking the drugs and alcohol is sufficient to satisfy the mens rea requirement for crimes of basic intent such as assault. This act was sufficiently reckless to satisfy the mens rea element.
Lord Simon of Glaisdale: There is nothing illogical about holding that a man who voluntarily makes himself drunk is not as wrongful as one who contemplates the wrongful act beforehand.
Lord Salmon: Intention is still intention. Based on strict logic, Majewski had no intent to commit the assault. But our laws are not based on strict logic, but rather on common sense and experience. I accept the illogicality in this rule and the result is proper.
Lord Edmund-Davies: The present law is illogical but it represents a compromise between the imposition of liability on inebriates and a complete disregard as to their condition.
Lord Russel of Killowen: Majewski’s actions demonstrate that he knew what was happening and had an understanding of the events.
Notes: This is the majority rule in the Unites States. Voluntary intoxication is not a defense to general intent crimes.
See City of Louisville v. Humphrey for a law school torts case brief stating the rule that res ipsa loquitur did not apply where a prisoner arrested for public intoxication was found dead after being held in a cell with other prisoners.