Qui peccat ebrius, luat sobrius

Qui peccat ebrius, luat sobrius

Literal Meaning

 He who does wrong when drunk must be punished when sober.

Explanation & Origin

Origin – The maxim has a Latin origin.

Explanation – The justification for this maxim is that the offender had voluntarily become intoxicated. This maxim applies to a wider ambit than just being drunk on alcohol. It includes any sort of intoxication. In criminal law involuntary intoxication is a defence to a crime done as the person was either unaware of the intoxicant or was forced into taking it. Intoxication is a defence because the offender was not in a state of mind to form intent. Criminal jurisprudence requires two things to form a crime i.e. mens rea and actus reus. Thus, in the absence of mens rea which is the mental element or intent, the crime is not complete. Thus in both involuntary and voluntary intoxication mens rea is absent. However, since in case of voluntary intoxication the person had chosen his state of inebriation, he will be punished by a court of law.


If A got drunk out of his own free will and chose to drive himself home rather than assigning a sober driver or hailing a taxi and then on his way back runs over his car on pedestrians then he will be convicted of the offence.

Case References

In the case of R v Lipman[1], the defendant, having voluntarily consumed LSD, had the illusion of descending to the centre of the earth and being attacked by snakes. In his attempt to fight off these reptiles he struck the victim (also a drug addict) two blows on the head causing injuries to her brain and crammed some eight inches of bed sheet into her mouth causing her to die of asphyxia. He claimed to have had no knowledge of what he was doing and no intention to harm her. His defence of intoxication was rejected at his trial and he was convicted of unlawful act manslaughter. His appeal to the Court of Appeal was dismissed. 

In the case of DPP v. Majewski[2], Majewski was under the influence of drugs and  he had made three attempts of assault causing bodily harm and threatened a constable who was on duty. The judges came to the conclusion that in a case of assault, no specific intention is required and the defendant was guilty as charged.

Edited by Vigneshwar Ramasubramania

Approved & Published – Sakshi Raje


[1] [1970] 1 QB 152.

[2] [1977] AC 443

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