Jury Consideration of Mental State During Voluntary Intoxication

In a plurality opinion, the United States Supreme Court in Montana v. Egelhoff (1996) held that a defendant's right to have a jury consider evidence of his voluntary intoxication in determining whether he possessed the requisite mental state was not a "fundamental principle of justice." As a result, the court held Montana's statutory ban on consideration of a defendant's intoxicated condition in determining the existence of a mental state, which is an element of the offense, did not violate the due process clause. (Montana v. Egelhoff, supra, 518 U.S. at pp. 40-43, 48-51, 56 [116 S. Ct. at pp. 2016-2017, 2019-2021, 2023-2024] (plur. opn.); see also id. at pp. 58-59 [116 S. Ct. at pp. 2024-2025] (conc. opn. of Ginsburg, J.).) The court reasoned: "It is not surprising that many States have held fast to or resurrected the common-law rule prohibiting consideration of voluntary intoxication in the determination of mens rea, because that rule has considerable justification--which alone casts doubt upon the proposition that the opposite rule is a 'fundamental principle.' A large number of crimes, especially violent crimes, are committed by intoxicated offenders; modern studies put the numbers as high as half of all homicides, for example. Disallowing consideration of voluntary intoxication has the effect of increasing the punishment for all unlawful acts committed in that state, and thereby deters drunkenness or irresponsible behavior while drunk. The rule also serves as a specific deterrent, ensuring that those who prove incapable of controlling violent impulses while voluntarily intoxicated go to prison. And finally, the rule comports with and implements society's moral perception that one who has voluntarily impaired his own faculties should be responsible for the consequences." (Montana, supra, 518 U.S. at pp. 49-50 [116 S. Ct. at p. 2020], fn. omitted.) The Montana court noted the well-settled principle that "the introduction of relevant evidence can be limited by the State for a 'valid' reason . . . ." ( Montana v. Egelhoff, supra, 518 U.S. at p. 53 [116 S. Ct. at p. 2022].) As long ago as 1969, the California Supreme Court recognized the commonly held public belief that "a person who voluntarily gets drunk and while in that state commits a crime should not escape the consequences." (People v. Hood (1969) 1 Cal. 3d 444, 455 [82 Cal. Rptr. 618, 462 P.2d 370].) The 1982 and 1995 amendments to section 22 are a reflection of this public perception.