Intoxication is defined by the Webster Dictionary as the “condition of having physical and mental control markedly diminished by the effects of alcohol or drugs.”
In Philippine Criminal Law, the intoxication of the offender or accused may increase (aggravate) or decrease (mitigate) the punishment for a crime thereby affecting the final penalty against him or her.
If the intoxication is not habitual or subsequent to the plan to commit a felony or crime, it will be considered as a mitigating circumstance.
However, when the intoxication is habitual or intentional, it shall be considered as an aggravating circumstance (Article 15, Revised Penal Code).
“The mere fact that the accused has been drinking intoxicating liquor about seven months and that he had been drunk once or twice a month is not constituting habitual drunkenness.
“A habitual drunkard is one given the intoxication by excessive use of intoxicating drinks… but it is not necessary that it be continuous or by daily occurrence” (Reyes, Revised Penal Code citing People v. Amenamen).
In the case of the United States v. McMann, the Supreme Court found the testimony of one of the witnesses sufficient to establish habituality of drunkenness.
The witness said “I have seen him drunk many times. The first time I knew the accused I saw him drunk 12 or more times… I could not say [how many times he has been drunk]; too many times to recollect” (G.R. No. 2229, July 1, 1905).
In another case, “drunkenness [was] considered as an aggravating circumstance [in robbery with multiple homicide] because it is habitual on the part of both Mabilangan defendants.
The defendants… admitted in open court that before they committed the crime, they drank for three hours in the house of defendant Adriano Gualba” (People v. Mabilangan, et al., G.R. L-48217, January 30, 1982).
However, in the case of People v. Moral, et al. for murder, the Supreme Court did not consider habitual drunkenness as an aggravating but a mitigating circumstance because the records “[do] not show excessive and habitual use of intoxicating drinks, or that the accused purposely got drunk in order to commit the crime” (G.R. L-31139 October 12, 1984).
“Luz Casa merely declared that the accused were drinking liquor on the night in question and were telling stories, and that they were singing, laughing, and shouting and were very jolly. While she further said that the accused used to drink liquor every Saturday night, her testimony is not competent proof that the accused are drunkards whose habit is to get drunk…”(G.R. L-31139 October 12, 1984).
However, in another case, in denying a claim of mitigating circumstance, the Supreme explained “[t]he record has no evidence that shows that the liquor taken by Jesus G. Ruiz (one of the accused) was of such quantity as to have blurred his reason and deprived him of self-control.
“Said circumstance must first be established before drunkenness may be considered as a mitigating circumstance” (People v. Ruiz, et al., G.R. L-33604-05 October 30, 1979).
In the case of People v. Noble, a claim of mitigating circumstance was denied by the Supreme Court after the accused said “after injecting a patient he took a bottle of wine and [drank] little by little until he got drunk… he started to go home; that on his way home he ‘was attracted by the light in his sister’s house’ and… he went up, to give his uncle an injection for heart ailment from which the old man was suffering” (G.R. L-288, August 29, 1946).
“This mitigating circumstance must be proved to the satisfaction of the court to be available as a means to lighten the penalty. The trial court has found the evidence insufficient to ‘conclusively show that the accused was drunk on the night of the incident’” (G.R. L-288, August 29, 1946).
“We [the Supreme Court] are in accord with this finding… the amount of liquor the accused had taken, if he had taken any, was not of sufficient quantity to affect his mental faculties… ‘if the accused was thoughtful enough not to neglect giving Don Vicente Noble his injection, the inference would be that his intoxication was not to such a degree as to affect his mental capacity to fully understand the consequences of his act’” law(G.R. L-288, August 29, 1946).
Intoxication is “intentional” when the offender drinks liquor fully knowing its effects, to find in the liquor a stimulant to commit a crime or a means to suffocate any remorse (Reyes, Revised Penal Code).
The question of “habit” should be proved as actual and confirmed; it is unnecessary that it is a matter of daily occurrence (Reyes, Revised Penal Code citing People v. Camano).
The liquor must “lessen individual resistance to evil thought and undermines (sic) the will-power making its victim a potential evildoer” (Reyes, Revised Penal Code citing People v. Camano).
It is important the offender’s use of his mental faculties and value judgment are affected by the intoxication.
While intoxication can impair the exercise of will power, intoxication is intentional if the offender resorted to it to bolster his courage to commit the crime. It is aggravating when intoxication is habitual and “undermines the will power making himself a potential evildoer” (Reyes, Revised Penal Code citing People v. Amenamen).
The prosecution must prove the intoxication of the offender is habitual or intentional.
In the absence of proof to the contrary, it will be presumed that intoxication is not habitual but accidental, and the fact that the accused was drunk at the time of the commission of the crime must then be considered as a mitigating circumstance (Reyes, Revised Penal Code citing U.S. v. Fitzgerald).
In the case of People v. Apduhan, “the accused merely alleged that when he committed the offense charged he was intoxicated although he was ‘not used to [being] drunk.’”
According to the Supreme Court, “[t]his self-serving statement stands uncorroborated. Obviously, it is devoid of any probative value” (G.R. L-19491, August 30, 1968).
The confession of the accused that he was intoxicated when he stabbed the cab driver after continuously drinking sometime before the commission of the crime was not habitual nor intentional.
The holdup was not the offspring of planning and deliberation. It was a fatal improvisation dictated by an impromptu impulse (People v. Abalos, et al., G.R. L-31726, May 31, 1974).
As a final word, [i]t is settled principle that drunkenness is not an excuse for a criminal act, committed while the intoxications lasts, and being its immediate result (A Treatise on the Law of Evidence, Volume 3, Wigmore and Greenleaf).
Nevertheless, its presence depending on the circumstances will affect the final penalty for the commission of the crime.