Supreme Court of California
27 Cal. Rptr. 2d 858 (1994)
Whitfield (defendant), who had a prior record of drunk-driving offenses, collided with another vehicle, killing the driver. Whitfield was found unconscious in his vehicle, with empty cans of liquor. Evidence indicated that Whitfield may have passed out just before the accident. At trial, Whitfield attempted to prove that he did not act with implied malice aforethought, because he was so intoxicated that he was unconscious at the time of the accident. The trial court instructed the jury that: (1) voluntary intoxication could be considered in determining whether Whitfield had specific intent, (2) every person who unlawfully kills another with malice aforethought is guilty of murder, and (3) malice may be express or implied, and (4) malice is implied when: (a) the killing resulted from an intentional act, (b) the natural consequences of the act are dangerous to life, and (c) the act was purposely performed with conscious disregard for life. The court distinguished between implied malice and gross negligence, the required mental state for the lesser offense of gross vehicular manslaughter. The trial court refused Whitfield’s requested jury instruction that “[i]f you find that a defendant, while unconscious as a result of voluntary intoxication, killed another human being without intent to kill and without malice aforethought, the crime is involuntary manslaughter.” The jury found Whitfield guilty of second-degree murder. Whitfield appealed, arguing that the trial court erred in refusing his jury instruction. In reviewing the case, the court of appeals held that evidence of voluntary intoxication cannot be introduced to negative implied malice, because second-degree murder based on implied malice is not a specific-intent crime.
Rule of Law
Holding and Reasoning (George, J.)
What to do next…
Unlock this case brief with a free (no-commitment) trial membership of Quimbee.
You’ll be in good company: Quimbee is one of the most widely used and trusted sites for law students, serving more than 97,000 law students since 2011. Some law schools—such as Yale, Vanderbilt, Berkeley, and the University of Illinois—even subscribe directly to Quimbee for all their law students. Read our student testimonials.
Learn more about Quimbee’s unique (and proven) approach to achieving great grades at law school.
Quimbee is a company hell-bent on one thing: helping you get an “A” in every course you take in law school, so you can graduate at the top of your class and get a high-paying law job. We’re not just a study aid for law students; we’re the study aid for law students. Read more about Quimbee.
Here's why 218,000 law students have relied on our case briefs:
- Written by law professors and practitioners, not other law students. 14,100 briefs, keyed to 189 casebooks. Top-notch customer support.
- The right amount of information, includes the facts, issues, rule of law, holding and reasoning, and any concurrences and dissents.
- Access in your classes, works on your mobile and tablet. Massive library of related video lessons and high quality multiple-choice questions.
- Easy to use, uniform format for every case brief. Written in plain English, not in legalese. Our briefs summarize and simplify; they don’t just repeat the court’s language.