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COMMONWEALTH PENNSYLVANIA v. JEREMIAH RUMSEY (01/07/83)

filed: January 7, 1983.

COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA
v.
JEREMIAH RUMSEY, APPELLANT



No. 2564 October, 1979, Appeal from the Judgment of Sentence of the Court of Common Pleas of Montgomery County, Criminal Division, at No. 4814-78.

COUNSEL

Francis M. Walsh, Assistant Public Defender, Norristown, for appellant.

Joseph J. Hylan, Assistant District Attorney, Norristown, for Commonwealth, appellee.

Wickersham, Hoffman and Van der Voort, JJ.

Author: Hoffman

[ 309 Pa. Super. Page 138]

Appellant contends that the lower court erred in upholding the constitutionality of section 308 of the Pennsylvania Crimes Code limiting the defense of intoxication in criminal proceedings. Finding the statute constitutional, we affirm.

Appellant, an inmate at Graterford prison, was arrested on November 15, 1978 for allegedly assaulting prison guards by swinging a sharpened scissors at them. He inflicted no injury. At trial, appellant attempted to introduce evidence that he had been drunk on bootleg wine and thus unable to form the requisite criminal intent for assault

[ 309 Pa. Super. Page 139]

    by a prisoner, 18 Pa.C.S.A. § 2703 ("intentionally and knowingly"), or aggravated assault by attempt to inflict serious bodily injury, id. § 2702; 901 ("intentionally"). Relying upon section 308, the lower court refused the intoxication evidence, and found appellant guilty of aggravated assault, assault by a prisoner, recklessly endangering another person, and simple assault. It denied his post-trial motions, and imposed sentence, prompting this appeal.

Appellant contends that § 308 limiting the defensive use of voluntary intoxication evidence is unconstitutional. The statute provides:

Neither voluntary intoxication nor drugged condition is a defense to a criminal charge, nor may evidence of such conditions be introduced to negative the element of intent of the offense, except that evidence of such intoxication or drugged condition may be offered by the defendant whenever it is relevant to reduce murder from a higher degree to a lower degree of murder.

Act of April 7, 1976, P.L. 72, No. 32, § 1, immediately effective; 18 Pa.C.S.A. § 308 (Supp.1974 to 1981). If read literally as an evidentiary rule merely precluding evidence of intoxication without redefining the mens rea element of crimes, this statute may be subject to attack as: (1) a legislative invasion of the Supreme Court's constitutional prerogative to make rules of evidence, Pa. Const. art. V, § 10(c); (2) barring the use of relevant evidence without sufficient justification, see Ohio v. Roberts, 448 U.S. 56, 100 S.Ct. 2531, 65 L.Ed.2d 597 (1980); Chambers v. Mississippi, 410 U.S. 284, 93 S.Ct. 1038, 35 L.Ed.2d 297 (1973), and (3) allowing convictions without proof of all elements of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt, see Commonwealth v. Rose, 457 Pa. 380, 321 A.2d 880 (1974); Commonwealth v. Bonomo, 396 Pa. 222, 151 A.2d 441 (1959). These particular constitutional objections however, are not dispositive of ...


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