Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The Hangover: The Tyson or the Tiger

The Hangover (2009)

Facts: Doug, his two best friends (Phil and Stu), and his future brother-in-law Alan go to Las Vegas for one last weekend of bachelor mayhem before Doug's wedding. To start the night, the guys head to the roof of Caesar's Palace, where Alan offers a bottle of Jagermeister and shot glasses. Unknown to the other guys, Alan dropped what he thought were pills of 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (a/k/a ecstasy) into the bottle of Jager; In reality, the pills were flunitrazepam (a/k/a roofies--or "floories," if you prefer). The men then began their night of debauchery, which involved a lot of alcohol consumption.

The next morning they woke up, very hungover, and found a tiger in their bathroom. They do not remember anything that happened after they had the shots of Jager on the roof. Mike Tyson, the owner of the tiger, confronts the guys and tells them to return his tiger. They bring the tiger back, at which point Tyson shows video footage of them taking the tiger from his property via the front drive gate.

Issue: Did the guys commit a burglary, a larceny, or both OR did their intoxication negate everything?

Law: A larceny is the taking of another person's property with the intent to permanently deprive the person of the property. A burglary is the breaking and entering into the dwelling of another with intent to commit an offense.

Involuntary intoxication is a defense to criminal conduct if the accused unknowingly ingests the substance that causes the intoxication.

Analysis: Probably no crime here. On their face, the facts seem to satisfy the elements of larceny and burglary. With the burglary, they opened the gate of Tyson's house they committed a breaking because they had to move something to enter the property. The issue is then whether they had the intent to commit an offense, which in this case would be the larceny. On the larceny, they clearly took Tyson's property (the tiger) but did they intend to permanently deprive Tyson of the tiger or were they just borrowing it? The best argument against them is that they never gave an indication that they were simply borrowing the tiger, of course the guys will say it was just a prank and they were going to return the tiger later in the day. That doesn't help us answer this case, though.

The real issue here is whether their behavior is excused because there were unknowingly drugged with roofies that made them unable either to control their actions or to form the necessary intent to commit these acts. Doug, Phil, and Stu did not know that Alan put anything in their drinks, meaning they have a strong argument that they could not have intended to commit either the larceny or the burglary.

Alan could (and should) argue that he mistakenly believed he was taking a different drug and should also benefit from this defense; however, Alan's mistake is not completely innocent as he knew he was putting some illegal substance into the drinks. Alan would also want to argue for the defense of voluntary intoxication (since he caused his own intoxication) as this defense is only available for specific intent crimes, such as burglary and larceny--they both require an addition level of intent above the basic intent to commit the crime: intent to commit an offense (burglary) and intent to permanently deprive (larceny).

Bonus: Assuming the intoxication defenses do not work, the guys are probably also guilty of conspiracy to commit burglary and conspiracy to commit larceny because they entered into an agreement and committed an overt act by going to Tyson's house. As we've discussed, conspiracy does not merge into a completed offense and you can be found guilty of both.

Double Bonus: Assuming the guys were simply intoxicated from their excessive alcohol consumption, they could argue they were unable to form the specific intent needed to commit burglary, larceny, and conspiracy (also a specific intent offense).


  1. What about the intoxicated kidnapping that resulted in a little naked man trapped in their trunk?

  2. I think the same rules would apply there. Kidnapping isn't a specific intent offense so if it's only voluntary intoxication, they've got an issue, but if it's involuntary intoxication, the defense would probably apply.