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Name: People v. Carlson
Case #: G043833
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 4 DCA
Division: 3
Opinion Date: 10/12/2011

Voluntary intoxication is irrelevant to proof of the mental state of implied malice. Appellant, with three prior convictions for driving under the influence, drove a vehicle at an excessively high rate of speed after consuming a substantial amount of alcohol. She made an illegal lane change and collided with the rear of a truck, causing the passenger’s death. At trial, appellant testified that she was unable to recall driving the vehicle and a defense expert witness testified that he concluded that appellant suffered a black-out on the night of the accident. The appellate court found no error in the trial court’s denial of appellant’s request for instruction of CALCRIM No. 626, voluntary intoxication as a defense to implied malice to reduce the crime to involuntary manslaughter. In People v. Watson (1981) 30 Cal.3d 290, the Supreme Court held that a person, with knowledge of the hazards of driving while intoxicated, who drives and proximately causes the death of another, can be convicted of second degree murder under an implied malice theory. Penal Code section 22, amended in 1995, specifically precludes evidence of voluntary intoxication to negate implied malice. The legislative history of the amendment indicates that the Legislature intended to make voluntary intoxication inadmissible to negate implied malice in cases in which defendant is charged with murder. The appellate court further found no equal protection violation because a rational basis exists for not allowing voluntary intoxication as a defense in implied malice cases; i.e., the avoidance of confusion arising from simultaneous use of intoxication evidence to both aggravate and mitigate criminal culpability and the bolstering of the deterrent effect of section 22 by underscoring the long-standing principal that voluntary intoxication is no excuse for crime.