Can someone who is intoxicated commit larceny?

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UPDATED: Jul 15, 2021

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Written By: Jeffrey JohnsonUPDATED: Jul 15, 2021Fact Checked

In most jurisdictions in this country, the evidence must establish that the offender had either the general intent or the specific intent to commit the crime with which he was charged, such as larceny, theft, assault, etc. General intent is established simply by proving that the actor committed the act. For example, assault is a general intent crime that is established simply by showing that the offender hit the victim without intending to hurt the victim.

Some crimes require that the evidence show that the actor specifically intended the harm that occurred as the result of his actions. For example, to prove that an offender is guilty of larceny or theft, the evidence must show that in taking the property, the actor specifically intended to deprive the owner of the property. Both elements, the taking and the specific intent, must be established beyond a reasonable doubt to get a larceny conviction.

Intoxication Defense in Larceny Crimes

When the crime charged is one of general intent, voluntary intoxication is not a defense. However, when the crime is one like larceny, which requires specific intent to do the harm, intoxication can be used to argue that the offender did not have the required intent. In a larceny case, the argument by the defense would be that the offender was too drunk to know what he was doing when he walked away with the victim’s property.

In the end, it is up to the fact finder, the judge or the jury, to believe the defense. If the fact finder believes the defendant was too drunk to know what he was doing, it can render a not guilty verdict. However, if the fact finder finds that the defendant, despite his intoxicated state, understood what he is doing, it can still find him guilty of larceny. As a practical matter, voluntary intoxication, even with specific intent crimes, hardly ever acts as a complete and successful defense in larceny or theft crimes. 

Getting Legal Help

If you have been charged with a crime and think you may have an intoxication defense, you should contact a criminal attorney.

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Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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Written by Jeffrey Johnson
Insurance Lawyer Jeffrey Johnson

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