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Name: People v. Atkins
Case #: S082662
Court: CA Supreme Court
District CalSup
Opinion Date: 03/12/2001
Subsequent History: None

Evidence of voluntary intoxication is not admissible under Penal Code section 22 on the issue of whether a defendant formed the required mental state for arson. Arson is a general intent crime, and evidence of voluntary intoxication is inadmissible to negate the existence of general criminal intent. Here, the Third District Court of Appeal had held that arson was a general intent crime, but that the intent required for a violation of Penal Code section 451 required proof that the defendant acted with a specific and particularly culpable mental state. The Supreme Court here reversed. The statutory history of section 451 shows that the Legislature did not consider arson a specific intent crime. In arson there is no complex mental state required, but only “relatively simple impulsive behavior.” It would therefore be anomalous to allow evidence of intoxication to relieve a defendant of responsibility for a crime committed in such a manner. Further, policy considerations appear to be more consistent with the legislative intent to exclude voluntary intoxication from negating the requisite mental state for arson.