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Crime, Punishment and the Drinking Offender

NCJ Number
J Rumgay
Date Published
244 pages
This book examines the popularity of appeals to intoxication as an excuse for and a mitigating factor in criminal offenses, with attention to such issues in British courts.
The book explores theoretical explanations of the alcohol- crime relationship, with a critical analysis of their support in empirical research. The author notes that in a special issue of International Journal of Law and Psychiatry, devoted to the intoxication excuse, Fingarette (1990a) declares that scientific research has established unequivocally that intoxication cannot excuse criminal behavior. This conflict between popular assumptions about the effects of alcohol on behavior and empirical findings leads to the development of a perspective based on "expectancy theory," which suggests that alcohol facilitates offending behavior less through its real pharmacological effects than through the variety of commonsense beliefs about those effects that are embedded in everyday life. Appeals to these beliefs form the basis of offenders' self- justifications for their crimes committed while intoxicated and of explanations offered in the courtroom in attempts to achieve mitigation of punishment. An empirical study of sentencing decisions in a British magistrates' court clarifies the diversity of explanations for crime based on intoxication and their success in achieving mitigation of punishment through the appeal to widely held, albeit erroneous, commonsense beliefs about alcohol and its effects. A 288-item bibliography and author and subject indexes