Heideman v. United States

The Facts

Defendant charged with robbery.  Before the crime, defendant who claimed to be drunk got in a cab and filled a sock with gravel to use as a weapon which to render the cab driver helpless.  He knew the weapon was silent and rifled through his pockets prior to the crime.  He also quickly fled the scene.


Voluntary intoxication is usually not a defense to any criminal charge.  Voluntary intoxication may be shown to negate the specific intent in an “attempt” crime.  In such a case, the state has the burden of proof as to defendant’s specific intent.

The Issue

Whether “the trial court should have instructed the jury to return a verdict of not guilty if it found that appellant was so intoxicated as to be incapable of forming the intent to rob.”

The Holding

Yes.  Drunkenness is relevant to the intent required for robbery.  “Such an instruction is necessary, however, only if sufficient evidence on the intoxication issue has been introduced so that a reasonable man could possibly entertain a doubt therefrom that the accused was able to form the necessary intent.”  Here the defendant demonstrated intent by making the silent sandbag and fled immediately from the scene.  The evidence found in this case would not create a reasonable doubt within a reasonable man regarding whether the defendant had the intent as to each element of the crime of robbery.


The evidentiary groundwork required for the admission of evidence drunkenness as to intent was laid in this case.  The co-defendant testified that the defendant was very intoxicated.  The level of intoxication is a question for the jury.


The standard jury instruction as to intoxication:  “In any prosecution for an offense, evidence of intoxication of the Defendant may be offered … whenever it is relevant to negative an element of the charged…  The question, therefore, is not whether the defendant was drunk, but whether his intoxication, if you find there was such, was of such a character that it destroyed the power to form the particular intent which is a necessary element of the crimes charged.”

Leave a Reply