Criminal Law

A homicide committed while acting in a reckless manner is manslaughter, not murder. An example of this is a death caused while driving while intoxicated. In most states, this is involuntary, or reckless, manslaughter. The question is, what if a killing is done intentionally while intoxicated? Is it still murder or only manslaughter?

For example: Abbott, a resident of Norfolk, Virginia, is angry at his boss, Costello, because he has just been fired. Abbott goes to a bar and drowns his sorrows in 4 pints of beer. Abbott leaves the bar with a new degree of “liquid courage.” He goes into a hardware store and purchases a knife, and staggers straight to Costello’s house. He bursts into Costello’s house, hunts down Costello and kills him with the knife. Abbott is arrested and tried for first degree murder. The prosecution alleges that the murder was premeditated and announces that is will seek the death penalty for Abbott.

Abbott claims that although the murder was planned and voluntary, he was so drunk that he could not have properly formed the intent to kill and should therefore not be subjected to a murder charge.

Using Virginia case law, can you determine whether Abbott’s argument is valid?

(Warning: A lot of the case law that you find in this area may be rather old. Don’t worry about that. There’s nothing wrong with using old case law; though all else being equal, newer is better.)

An IRAC-based essay is appropriate for this assignment.

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