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Name: People v. Berg
Case #: H043511
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 6 DCA
Opinion Date: 05/25/2018

Trial court properly excluded evidence of defendant’s voluntary intoxication because he was charged with possessing a controlled substance in jail, which is a general intent crime. Berg was charged with knowingly possessing methamphetamine in a jail (Pen. Code, § 4573.6) after a search conducted two days following his misdemeanor arrest for public intoxication. At trial, the prosecution moved to exclude testimony about Berg’s intoxication at the time of his arrest. Berg argued that the intoxication evidence was relevant to his ability to be aware of the presence of contraband and that the jury should be allowed to determine how intoxication might affect his knowledge. The court excluded the evidence, and the jury convicted Berg. He appealed. Held: Affirmed. Penal Code section 29.4 provides, in relevant part, that evidence of voluntary intoxication is “admissible solely on the issue of whether or not the defendant actually formed a required specific intent.” When the definition of a crime consists only of the description of a particular act, it is a general intent crime. By contrast, when the definition refers to a defendant’s intent to do some further act or achieve some additional consequence, the crime is deemed to be one of specific intent. (People v. Hood (1969) 1 Cal.3d 444, 457.) Berg conceded that Penal Code section 4573.6 is a general intent offense but argued that evidence of his voluntary intoxication was relevant to raise a reasonable doubt regarding the required element of knowledge, a specific mental state. The Court of Appeal rejected this argument because it “is contradicted by the plain language of section 29.4.” The court also concluded that the lengthy interval between Berg’s arrest and the discovery of the methamphetamine supported the trial court’s conclusion that his intoxication when he entered the jail was irrelevant to the knowledge required to be convicted under section 4573.6. As a result, the trial court did not abuse its discretion by excluding Berg’s voluntary intoxication evidence.

The full opinion is available on the court’s website here: