Joe lives in Lansing, MI. One day, Joe is at a local bar. He has had a few drinks, but he is not intoxicated. As he is about to leave, he asks the bartender for a cup of water. The bartender by mistake hands him a 6 ounce cup of 40% Vodka instead. Joe gulps down the glass quickly. He notices the strength of the liquid, but figures that it must be his imagination, as he clearly asked for water. Joe gets in his car and drives home.
Unfortunately for him, the vodka goes straight to his head and he becomes intoxicated. Because of Joe’s intoxication, he loses control of his car, which jumps a curb and kills 2 people. Joe is arrested and put on trial under Michigan’s “causing death while operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated” statute, which carries a penalty of up to 15 years in prison.
Joe wants to argue that he did not knowingly drink enough to make him drunk. However, the judge instructs the jury that whether Joe knew that the liquid that he drank was vodka was irrelevant because driving while intoxicated is a strict liability offense.
Joe’s attorney claims that this would be unconstitutional because it would not be fair to give someone such a severe punishment without proving any mens rea on Joe’s part.
Who is correct? Please use appropriate case law to support your answer.
An IRAC-based essay is appropriate for this assignment.
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