Martin v. State

Alabama Court of Appeals, 1944.

31 Ala.App. 334, 17 So.2d 427.

Dressler, p. 112


Facts: Martin was arrested at home and taken onto the highway, where he showed signs of being drunk.He was convicted of being drunk on a public highway and he appealed.


Issue: Does the accused have to go onto a public highway voluntarily to be convicted of being drunk on a public highway?


Rule: You cannot be convicted of being drunk on a public highway if you were forcibly taken to that place by a police officer.


Analysis: The case is pretty clear-cut.Even though the particular statute cited doesnít explicitly require a voluntary act, the court says that basically a voluntary act is part of the nature of any crime, and thus this particular conviction was in error.


Conclusion: The conviction was reversed and Martin was found not guilty.


Notes and Questions


1.     We donít punish people for their thoughts any longer, but should we?Itís argued that itís impossible to really know what people are thinking.It is also suggested that we require an act as well as a thought because we want to make sure the person cannot be deterred and because we want to prevent multiple prosecutions.Itís suggested that we might want to arrest someone who freely confessed to intending to kill the President.If we did this, however, no one would confess their intention, and thus our opportunity to prevent the act would be taken away.If I was a retributivist, I might be skeptical about whether mere thoughts earn societyís condemnation, and thus whether such thoughts are punishable.If I were, more specifically, an advocate of victim vindication, I might be of two minds on the matter: on one hand, I would figure that since no act had transpired, no ďfalse moral statementĒ had been made that was in need of correction.On the other hand, I might believe that given the chance, we ought to correct false moral thoughts in a personís mind before they are expressed in action.

2.     Barring liability for purely involuntary conduct seems to be a strongly utilitarian idea.If an act cannot be deterred, there need not be punishment for that act.We clearly cannot deter involuntary actions.Thus, we should not punish involuntary actions.

3.     Let me take a stab at a definition of a voluntary act: a voluntary act is a bodily motion accompanied by a mental state which is reflective of the intent to perform the motion.Well, weíll see how that holds up.


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