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Insanity and Intoxication

By AbhinsChand Mar 18, 2014 4933 Words
Law of crimes – I

Criminal law can be defined as a body of rules and statutes that defines conduct prohibited by the government because it threatens and harms public safety and welfare and that establishes punishment to be imposed for the commission of such acts. The term criminal law generally refers to substantive criminal laws. Substantive criminal laws define crimes and may establish punishments.1 John Gillin, a sociologist, defines crime as “an act that has been shown to be actually harmful to society, or that is believed to be socially harmful by a group of people that has the power to enforce its beliefs, and that places such act under the ban of positive penalties.” Criminal law we could say as a set of laws that regulate or rather prohibit and impose punitive sanctions on these acts. Criminal law in India was codified by the Indian Penal Code of 1861. Certain persons are exempt from the operation of the criminal law. Article 361 of the constitution of India stipulates that the President of India, Governor of state, or Rajpramukh are not answerable to any court for the matters pertaining to the exercise and performance of the powers and duties of their office. Chapter IV of the IPC captioned ‘general exceptions’, comprising sections 76 to 106, exempts certain persons from criminal liability. An act or omission of an accused even though prima facie falls within the terms of a section defining an offence or prescribing a punishment therefore, does not constitute an offence if it is covered by any of the ‘exceptions’ enumerated in the Chapter IV. In other words, a wrong doer, who has committed an Actus Reus with the requisite Mens rea, may escape from liability because he has a ‘general exception’ to offer as an answer to the prosecution. The ‘general exceptions, in ultimate analysis, limit and over ride offences and penal provisions of the code. The title “general exceptions” is used to convey that these ‘exceptions’ are available to all offences. Insanity is one of the general exceptions to criminal liability recognized by the IPC. This is based on the principle of Mens rea discussed earlier. It also impairs perception, reasoning and the ability to foresee the consequences.2 The right of a defendant to attempt to reduce the charges facing him or her by entering an insanity plea has its basis in the earliest known criminal laws. Greeks and Romans believed that an insanity plea moved a person outside of the normal jurisdiction of everyday criminal laws, although this is because those people perceived insanity as the result of divine action. Early English common law also provided a framework for a defendant to file an insanity plea after criminal laws were found to be deficient in their handling of the mentally unstable. An attempted assassination of King George III resulted in the first modern criminal laws providing special legal standing for individuals entering an insanity plea.3 Section 84 of the IPC states that nothing is an offence which is done by a person who, at the time of doing it, by reason of unsoundness of mind, is incapable of knowing the nature of the act, or that he is doing what is either wrong or contrary to law. A fundamental principle of criminal law is that Mens rea (guilty mind) is an essential element in every offence and no crime can be said to have been committed if the mind of the person doing the act is not guilty. Since criminal act is an indispensible element in every crime, a person incapable of entertaining such intent cannot incur guilt. Idiots and lunatics are, therefore, not liable in criminal law for their acts. It has been said that a mad man is best punished by his own madness (furiosus furore suo punier); or that a mad man has no will (furiosis nulla voluntus est); or a mad man is like one who is absent (furiosus absentis loco est). The policy of the law is to control not only the sane, but, so far as possible, also the insane. It is not therefore, every person mentally diseased who ipso facto, is exempted from criminal responsibility. Such exemption is allowed only where the insane person “is incapable of knowing the nature of the act, or that he is doing what is either wrong or contrary to law.” The principle embodied in this Section is based upon the maxim Actus Non Facit Reum, Nisi Mens Sit Rea i.e. an act is not criminal unless there is criminal intent. The settled position in law is that every man is presumed to be sane and to possess a sufficient degree of reason to be responsible for his acts unless the contrary is proved. This section provides that a man who is, by reason of unsoundness of mind, prevented from controlling his own conduct and deprived of the power of passing a rational judgment on the moral character of the act he meant to do cannot be legally responsible for the act. Elements:

To establish that an act done cannot be said to be an offence as covered by Section 84, the following elements must be present: 1. The accused was of unsound mind at the time of commission of the act; and 2. By the reason of unsoundness of mind, the accused was incapable of knowing the nature of the act of that he was doing what was either wrong or contrary to law. Principles:

There are certain principles to be borne in mind before applying this section. They are as follows: 1. Every type of insanity is not legal insanity; the cognitive faculty must be so destroyed at to render one incapable of knowing the nature of his act or that what he is doing is wrong or contrary to law; 2. The court shall presume the absence of such insanity;

3. The burden of proof of legal insanity is on the accused, though it is not as heavy as on the prosecution to prove an offence; 4. The court must consider whether the accused suffered from legal insanity at the time when the offence was committed; 5. In reaching such a conclusion, the circumstances which preceded, attended or followed the crime are relevant considerations.4 The defence of insanity is governed by the famous McNaughton rules, dating from 1843. These specify that a person is not criminally responsible if, at the time of doing the act, the party accused was laboring under such defect of reason, from disease of the mind, as not to know the nature and quality of the act he was doing or, if he did know it, that what he was doing was wrong. A person is presumed to be same and therefore the burden of proving insanity lies on the accused on a balance of probabilities. By ‘nature and quality of the act’ is meant only that the accused must be unaware of the physical nature of the act, for example that she is putting a baby on the fire rather than a log. By knowledge of wrong is meant that the accused cannot escape liability if he knows that what he is doing is legally wrong, whatever may be have been his views of the moral character of the act. An individual may not rely on uncontrollable impulse as such, but if irresistible impulse is a symptom of a disease which has an effect on accused’s ability to know that nature and quality of his act or to know that it is wrong he may rely on it in that sense. A person who is found not guilty by reason of insanity may be ordered to be admitted to a mental institution or be made the subject of a guardianship order, a supervision or treatment order, or may be given an absolute discharge. 5

The McNaughton Rule
In response to the famous McNaughton case decided in 1843, the English judiciary established a standard for determining whether a person is insane. This standard, known as the McNaughton rule had become the generally accepted legal standard. The concept of insanity under McNaughton is based solely upon cognitive disability. Thus, under this rule, a person is insane if, at the time of the offense, the person was laboring under such a defect of reason, as a result of a disease of the mind, that the person did not know either: (1) The nature and quality of the act the person was committing; or (2) That what the person was doing was wrong.

There has been much discussion and interpretation concerning this rule. Generally, the first element of the test addresses the ability of a person to comprehend what the person was doing. It is generally accepted that the phrase “know the nature” of an act refers to the ability of a person to be aware of the physical characteristics of an act, that is, to know the true nature of the activity. Knowledge of the “quality” of an act is said to encompass an ability to comprehend the act’s harmfulness. The second element of the McNaughton rule concerns the ability to distinguish between right and wrong. Under McNaughton, a person’s capacity to appreciate the wrongfulness of the person’s conduct must be totally impaired; that is, the person must not know that what the person did was wrong. Despite the McNaughton rule’s widespread use, it was severely criticized for being too restrictive. Critics particularly objected to the McNaughton rule’s absolutist position of requiring that a person totally lack capacity to understand that what the person is doing is wrong. Critics also contended that its exclusive focus on the cognitive functions of the mind was out of step with modern psychological thought. Finally, the McNaughton rule’s focus on intellectual awareness and cognition alone offers no defense to those who may know that what they are doing is wrong but are unable to control their actions.6

An insanity defense can only be successfully mounted if it fulfills the requirements laid out in the law. The defendant cannot be excused for his or her actions simply by claiming he or she is insane. Most counties place the burden of proof on the defense to show that the defendant is insane.    The standard required to prove an insanity defense is based on social norms. Insanity in the courtroom is not to be confused with the medical definition of mentally ill. Although the two share some similarities, the legal definition can be found even if there is no medical basis for the finding, and a medical diagnosis of mental illness does not automatically equate to a legal ruling of insanity.7

Medical insanity and legal insanity:
There is a good deal of difference between medical insanity and legal insanity and the courts are concerned only with the legal and not the medical aspect of the matter. It is not every kind of frantic humor or something unaccountable in a man’s action that points him out to be a mad man; to be exempted is from punishment. It is not mere eccentricity or singularity of manner that would suffice the plea of insanity. An abnormality of mind is not by itself sufficient to show that the accused must have acted while of unsound mind. Such exemption can be claimed only when the insane person is incapable of knowing the nature of the act or he is either wrong or contrary to law.8

Alcohol is quite strongly associated with crimes of violence. The effect of alcohol on the brain is depressant from the beginning. Its apparently stimulating effect is due solely to the fact that it deadens the higher control centers and progressively the other centers as well, thus weakening or removing the inhibitions that normally keep us within the bounds of civilized behavior. It also impairs perception, reasoning and the ability to foresee consequences. Intoxication presents problems in theory of responsibility. A man who commits a crime under the influence of alcohol may not reflect his real character. It could have been a mere aberration in his life. Convicting a person who commits a crime under the influence of alcohol like all other offenders may appear to be harsh. On the other hand, it is not uncommon for offenders to consume alcohol before committing an offence. Hence, it may not be in the interests of the general society to treat intoxication as a general defence. This is because, a man by consuming alcohol and becoming intoxicated involuntarily, impairs his own self control and good judgment. Section 85 of the IPC, titled Act of a person incapable of judgment by reason of intoxication caused against his will states that Nothing is an offence which is done by a person who, at the time of doing it, is, by reason of intoxication, incapable of knowing the nature of the act, or that he is doing what is either wrong, or contrary to law; provided that the thing which intoxicated him was administered to him without his knowledge or against his will. As the heading of the provision itself shows, intoxication must have been against his will and/or thing which he intoxicated was administered to him without his knowledge. The defence of drunkenness can be availed of only when intoxication produces such a condition as the accused loses the requisite intention for the offence. Drunkenness is a species of madness for which the mad man is to blame. The law pronounces that the obscuration and divestment of that judgment and human feeling which in sober state would have prevented the accused from offending , shall not, when produced by his voluntary act, screen him from punishment, although he be no longer capable of self- restraint. Qui peccat ebrius, luat sobrius: let him who sins when drunk be punished when sober. If a man chooses to get drunk, it is his own voluntary act: it is very different from a madness which is not caused by any act of the person. The voluntary species of madness which is in a party’s power to abstain from, he must answer for. However, with regard to the intention, drunkenness may perhaps be adverted to according to the nature of the instrument used. If a man uses a stick, you would not infer a malicious intent so strongly against him, if drunk, when he made an intemperate use of it, as you would if he had used a different kind of weapon; but where a dangerous instrument is used, which, if used, must produce grievous bodily harm, drunkenness can have no effect on the consideration of the malicious intent of the party. Sections 85 and 86 of the IPC deals with intoxication as an extenuating factor. A combined reading of section 85 and 86 reveals that the former lays down the law relating to involuntary intoxication or drunkenness as a defence to a criminal charge, while the latter deals with criminal liability of a voluntarily intoxicated person when he commits an offence under the influence of self-administered intoxicant. Section 85, which is similarly phrased as section 84, accords immunity from criminal liability to a person intoxicated involuntary as section 84 gives to a person of unsound mind. Section 86 provides for a limited exemption from criminal liability in certain types of cases. In the absence of evidence of intoxication, both the sections become in applicable.9 Intoxication, whether by the voluntary consumption of drink or another drug, is not a defence in English Law. Evidence of mental impairment through drink or drugs may , however, be relied on in order to negate the Mens rea required for the offence provided that the intent required be specific intent. Certain drugs produce not simply an absence if Mens rea but also involuntary conduct. English law, as will be seen, has not developed theory to deal with cases of this character. The restrictive rules which apply to voluntary intoxication do not apply where the taking is involuntary, for example where the actor is unaware that he is taking an intoxicating substance or where he takes it properly on medical advice for a therapeutic purpose. English law, where the offence is one not of specific Intent but of basic intent or recklessness, locates fault in the taking of the drink or drugs. Recklessness in this sense obviously differs from recklessness in the sense of advertence or blameworthy Inadvertence towards a specific situation of risk. It consists essentially in the creation of general situation of risk.10 The defence of intoxication is only available to the accused if his or her mental state was affected to the extent that he or she was not capable of forming Mens rea. An accused who takes alcohol voluntarily cannot exempt himself or herself of criminal liability. In other words, arguing that the accused would not have a committed the offence if he or she had been sober will not be a successful defence. The distinction between crime of basic intent and specific intent is crucial. In Director of public prosecutions V. Majewski [1977], the House of Lords held that evidence of voluntary or involuntary intoxication negating Mens rea is a defence to change of any other crime. Where the crime committed by the accused does not require specific intent, the accused cannot rely on the defence of self-intoxication even though he or she did not form the necessary Mens rea in committing the offence.11 As a general rule, voluntary intoxication is no defence in a criminal trial. The rule has been explained in the ground that one who has voluntarily cast off the restraints of reason and conscience is not wronged by being held responsible for any injury he may do while in that state. It is argued that the accused must be held to have intended the consequences springing from his own voluntary act. The act to get drunk is itself being wrongful; it supplied necessary and requisite Mens rea. Where the accused pleads that intoxication was involuntary which made him incapable of knowing what he was doing or that what he was doing was wrong or contrary to law, the burden of proof is on him. The onus of proof about reason of intoxication due to which the accused had become incapable of having particular knowledge in forming the particular intention is on the accused.12 It is a generally accepted rule of law that a defendant who is voluntarily under the influence of intoxicating substances at the time a criminal act is committed will not be relieved of criminal responsibility. "Simply stated, a voluntary intoxication or a voluntary drugged condition does not raise the defense of insanity, but it may be used to negate the existence of the mental state which is an element of the crime. A voluntary intoxication or voluntary drugged condition precludes the use of the insanity defense." While failing as a "complete defense" to eliminate culpability entirely, voluntary intoxication nonetheless may be used as evidence to mitigate the seriousness of the offense by negativing an element of the crime charged. Thus, for example, a defendant charged with murder may be found guilty of the lesser included crime of manslaughter, if the fact finder determines he was too intoxicated to form the requisite specific intent to cause death (i.e., the intoxication rendered the defendant incapable of forming the specific intent constituting an element of the crime). In contrast to voluntary intoxication, involuntary intoxication is a "complete defense" to a criminal charge.13

INTOXICATION AND INSANITY: Difference: It is well settled that temporary insanity arising from voluntary intoxication is no defence. This is true even in those cases where the state of mind of the accused may meet the requirement of legal insanity in the rule contained in McNaughton. The criminal law is concerned with the effect, not the origin of the disease of the mind. If insanity supervenes as a result of alcoholism, it is as much a defence to a criminal charge as insanity from any other cause. The defenses of insanity and drunkenness are otherwise in no way analogous. Where the defence raises drunkenness as negativing Mens rea, it is immaterial whether or not the accused knew what he was doing was wrong. 14 Intoxication may resemble insanity, but the two are not the same. Both in cases of insanity and involuntary intoxication, the defence put up are incapacity of understanding or knowing the nature of the act. In a Madras case, the accused was highly drunk and that induced in him a spirit of bravado and made him violent. He drew a line on the ground and warned that he would kill anybody who crossed it. The deceased who tried crossing the line was attacked by the accused and was killed. The plea of insanity due to intoxication put up by the accused was not accepted by the court, which felt that the warning given by him, though foolish, clearly show that he was very well aware of what he was doing. If the incapacity to understand the nature of the act or to have the particular knowledge or to form the particular intent necessary to constitute the offence is the result of inherent defect or infirmity of the mind, then the case will come only under Section 84 and Section 86 will have no application. Although both intoxication and insanity lead to incapacity to understand the nature of the offence, they cannot be treated in the same manner. The poisoning of the brain with alcohol or other drugs is a knowingly self-induced condition. Volition enters into it in a way that it does not into insanity. The threat of punishment may cause a person to moderate his intake of intoxicants and it may cause even the intoxicated person to control himself. Drunkenness is not itself insanity, but drinking may result itself what is thought as insanity; it may be symptomatic of insanity or bring out latent insanity. In respect of sentence, a person who commits a serious crime and sets up a plea of intoxication is sent to prison, whereas a person who sets up the defence of insanity may not be sent to prison but sent to a psychiatric hospital or lunatic asylum for as long as he is thought to be dangerous. 15 Insanity by Intoxication:

Evidence of drunkenness which renders the accused incapable of forming the specific intent is essential to constitute the crime ought to be taken into consideration, with the other facts proved, in order to determine whether he had that intent. DPP V. Beard. In this case the accused ravished a girl of 13 years of age and in furtherance of the act of the rape placed his hand upon her mouth and his thumb upon her throat, thereby causing death by suffocation. The sole defence was a plea of drunkenness. It was held that drunkenness was no defence unless it could be established that the accused at the time of committing rape was so drunk that he was incapable of forming the intent to commit it (which was not alleged), inasmuch as the death resulted from a succession of acts, the rape and the act of violence causing suffocation, which would not be regarded independently of each other; and that the accuse was guilty of murder. Evidence of drunkenness falling short of approved incapacity in the accused to form the intent necessary to constitute the crime and merely establishing that his mind was affected by the drink so that he more readily gave way to some violent passion, does not rebut the presumption that a man intends the natural consequences of his acts. Drunkenness is not an excuse, but delirium tremens caused by drinking and different drunkenness, if it produces such a degree of madness, even for a time, as to render a person incapable of distinguishing right from wrong, relieves him from criminal responsibility. If voluntary drunkenness has caused a disease which has produced such incapacity then the act may be excused, though the disease may be of a temporary nature. On the question as to how far drunkenness is an excuse for a crime the proper test has been laid down in the case of Director of Public Prosecution v Beard. There is a distinction between the defence of insanity in the true sense caused by excessive drunkenness and the defence of drunkenness which produces a condition such that the drunken man’s mind becomes incapable of forming a specific intention. If actual insanity in fact supervenes as the result of alcoholic excess it furnishes a complete answer to a criminal charge as insanity induced by any other cause. But in cases falling short of insanity, evidence of drunkenness which renders the accused incapable of forming the specific intent essential to constitute the crime should be taken into consideration with the other facts proved in order to determine whether or not he had his intent, but evidence of drunkenness which falls short of providing such incapacity and merely establishes that the mind of the accused was so affected by drink that he more readily gave way to some violent passion does not rebut the presumption that a man intends the natural consequences of his acts.16 It should be noted that drunkenness cannot be dressed up as either as a defence of insanity or diminished responsibility. A person is entitled to advance either defence where the consumption of drink has produced a distinct disease of the mind such as delirium tremens. For such a defence to succeed, it must be shown that drink produced gross impairment of judgment and emotional responses and that the drinking as such had become involuntary. 17 In Basdev v State of Pepsu, the apex court rules that insanity, whether produced by drunkenness or otherwise is a defence to the crime charged. In other words, voluntary intoxication operates as an extenuating factor if it leads to “unsoundness of mind”. The IPC makes no difference between insanity caused by habitual excessive drinking and insanity resulting from other causes. It does not deprive him of the immunity from liability only on the ground that the insanity resulted from his self induced drunkenness. Voluntary drunkenness falling short of insanity, however, becomes one of the relevant factors in ascertaining as to whether the accused had mental ability to form the requisite specific intent, if the crime in question warrants it. 18 In this context of the discussion of insanity resulting from intoxication, let’s look at the concept of Settled insanity. Settled insanity is defined as a permanent or "settled" condition caused by long-term substance abuse and differs from the temporary state of intoxication. "Settled insanity" can be used as a basis for an insanity defense, even though voluntary intoxication cannot. 19 Insanity is insanity regardless of the underlying cause of the insanity. It has been said that: Insanity at the time of an alleged criminal act generally constitutes a defense, regardless of how the condition may have come about. Under this view, if the defendant is in fact insane at the time of the act charged, it makes no difference that his condition was brought on by his own wrongful and unlawful acts. In some instances, the habitual, long-term use of drugs or alcohol can result in permanent mental disorders that are symptomatically and organically similar to mental disorders caused by brain disease. Among the courts that have considered the issue, the nearly unanimous rule is that a mental or brain disease or defect caused by the long-term effects of intoxicants constitutes a mental state that warrants an insanity defense rather than an intoxication defense.

The doctrine of settled insanity relates to both insanity and voluntary intoxication: the difficulty lies in determining the point at which the mental disorder caused by the voluntary intoxication becomes insanity. In considering the issue, courts have frequently held that the use of intoxicants must produce a “permanent and settled insanity” that is distinct from the compulsion to abuse alcohol or drugs. However, the insanity need not be permanent. The terms “fixed” or “settled” are intended to describe a mental disorder that “exists prior to and after any single bout of intoxication.” In an attempt to clarify the doctrine of settled insanity, the disorder must: (1) Be fixed and stable;

(2) Last for a reasonable duration of time;
(3) Not be solely dependent upon the ingestion and duration of the drug; and (4) Meet the jurisdiction’s legal definition of insanity.20

Over time, as court’s ruling has been refining the insanity defense, the concept of "settled insanity" has been evolving. Originally, any form of insanity caused by the voluntary use of drugs was not an eligible defense for a criminal offense. The rationale was that any act that results from voluntary behavior, including the voluntary intake of drugs, is choosing to increase the risk of breaking the law. United States now recognize that the long-term voluntary use of an intoxicating substance can cause a stable or "settled insanity" that can serve as a defense to a criminal act, especially if the long-term use exacerbated a preexisting mental condition.21

India has relied much on the McNaughton rules for the application of general exceptions of insanity and intoxication. As stated earlier, though these rules provided solution to most of the issues regarding the two concepts at that time, these rules have become a bit outdated in the current scenario where there has been much advancement in the medical aspects of insanity and intoxication. When England has moved much forward in acknowledging concepts like diminished responsibility, India is yet to open up to such concepts. Laws need to keep pace with changing social needs and requirements. And in this context, broadening of the laws in insanity and intoxication issues is the need of the hour.

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