While You Were Sleeping or Addicted

A Suggested Expansion of the Automatism Doctrine to Include an Addiction Defense

The automatism doctrine stems from the basic principle that a criminal act must be voluntary. Because an act is considered involuntary if it occurs while the actor is in a state of unconsciousness, the automatism doctrine provides a defense to crimes committed while sleepwalking. This Note takes the position that drug and alcohol addictions result in what should be recognized as a similar lack of voluntary control. After discussing general theories behind the automatism doctrine and its relevance to crimes committed while sleepwalking, the author of this note considers current medical theories regarding drug and alcohol addiction. Because both the medical profession and the Supreme Court recognize drug and alcohol addiction as a disease, the author argues that addicts should not be punished for committing acts inherently associated with their addictions. She provides several policy justifications for her proposal and concludes that courts should extend the automatism doctrine to include an addiction defense.

The full text of this Note is available to download as a PDF.