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NCJRS Abstract

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NCJ Number: 77575 Find in a Library
Title: Alcohol, Drugs, and Criminal Responsibility
Journal: Australian Crime Prevention Council Forum  Volume:4  Issue:1  Dated:(1981)  Pages:19,21-25,27,29-34
Author(s): I D Elliot
Date Published: 1981
Page Count: 13
Format: Article
Language: English
Country: Australia
Annotation: This paper questions the wisdom of an Australian High Court ruling in which evidence of intoxication was used to defeat the imputation of guilt, claiming that this decision fails to demonstrate how and why intoxication was relevant.
Abstract: At issue is the case of O'Connor, which is discussed in the context of both Australian and British case law where intoxication has been presented as a viable argument for the defense on the grounds of diminished capacity to act voluntarily and intentionally. In discussing the validity of such a contention, this article reviews various situations in which alcohol may affect responsibility for actions and weighs the basis on which these may provide an acceptable denial of legal responsibility. Discussed in numerous legal contexts are impairment of muscular control, failures of perceptions, mistakes and misinterpretations, hallucinations and delusions, dissociation and disorientation, and amnesia and unconsciousness. Detailed analysis is then devoted to the High Court's formulation of the O'Connor ruling, which affirmed the principle that evidence of intoxication can be used to defeat the imputation of criminal guilt, and which has subsequently drawn much commonsense skepticism and public incredulity. The critique presented here contends that O'Connor provides very little enlightenment on the question of how intoxication affected the defendant's liability. It is concluded that this ruling has created a need to formulate a set of coherent principles linking intoxication and exculpation, although legislation of a specific defense for the intoxicated defendant is not advised.
Index Term(s): Australia; Criminal responsibility; Defense; Drug abuse; Drug Related Crime
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