People v. Drew Case Brief

Summary of People v. Drew
S. Ct. California, 1978

American Law Institute -substantial capacity test

Relevant Facts: Drew, while drinking in a bar, placed a five dollar bill on the counter and went to the restroom. Upon returning the money was missing and he accused a patron. An argument ensued and the police were called. Drew continued to argue and the police took him outside. Thereupon which he struck one officer in the face, jumped on top of him and attempted to bite him.

Legal Issue(s): Whether the trial court should have instructed the jury on the ALI insanity test?

Court’s Holding: Yes

Procedure: Charged with battery on police officer, obstructing an officer, and disturbing the peace, jury trial found him guilty. Reversed and remanded for a new trial.

Law or Rule(s): A person is not responsible for criminal conduct if at the time of such conduct, as a result of mental disease or defect he lacks substantial capacity either to appreciate the criminality [wrongness] of his conduct or to conform his conduct to the requirements of the law.

Court Rationale: The current California Code does not define the term insanity. The M’Naghten rule does not comport to modern medical knowledge and is unable to address an accused who understood his actions but was incapable of controlling his behavior. The ALI test provides the foundation on which we can order and rationalize the convoluted and occasionally inconsistent law of diminished capacity test by including elements of volition as well as cognition. The legislature never enacted the M’Naghten rule as a test of insanity, and the current statute does not incorporate the formula.

Plaintiff’s Argument: Any change in the M’Naghten rule requires legislative action.

Defendant’s Argument: The trial ct’s failure to instruct the jury under the ALI test was prejudicial because it did not allow the df to explore mental disease or defect beyond mere right and wrong.

Volition – the ability to conform conduct to legal requirements.

Cognition – the ability to understand the nature and quality of acts.


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