Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is one of the famous classic tales of the Victorian Era and for good reason. It explores themes of addiction, personal responsibility, unconscious desires, the rigidity of Victorian norms, morality, and the duality of man. One thing people have long debated is whether or not Jekyll should be considered responsible for Mr. Hyde’s crimes. The criminal trial would be an interesting one with strong arguments by both his defense attorney and the prosecutor, but Mr. Hyde would probably ultimately end up in a mental health facility.
Voluntary Intoxication and Addiction
The key to understanding whether or not Dr. Jekyll would be considered innocent under California law is in the fact that he does not just turn into Mr. Hyde the way The Hulk or the Wolf Man transform unwillingly. Instead, Dr. Jekyll needed to take a serum, which he originally took willingly, finding he enjoyed the sensations he got from releasing his id upon his world. Ultimately, this is no different than voluntary intoxication and while voluntary intoxication can be a partial defense in some crimes where intent is required to prove guilt -such as first degree murder, it is not a real defense against most charges since the user chose to become intoxicated.
Yes, Mr. Hyde starts to become stronger and forces Jekyll to take the serum during his sleep on occasion and his drug defense lawyer would likely argue this makes should be considered involuntary intoxication and what he did while unconscious is beyond his control. On the other hand, the prosecutor would likely argue that this is ultimately no different than any other addict arguing that they couldn’t fight the urge to take a drug.
Dr. Jekyll’s Drug-Fueled Insanity
Eventually Mr. Hyde becomes strong enough that he can take over without the use of the serum and it is only at this point that Dr. Jekyll would no longer be responsible for his actions because he would be considered legally insane. Essentially, this would be the same as someone taking so much LSD that they started to feel like they were taking the drug even when they were sober. They may not be responsible for their actions, but at this point, they would need to be institutionalized if they were considered a threat to the public -and Mr. Hyde’s crimes would certainly make him a threat to the public.
While criminal lawyers tend to avoid using the insanity defense because it usually results in the person being confined in a mental health facility for longer than they would be in prison, it is a viable defense for people who truly need this kind of treatment because they can no longer be in control of their actions. This would certainly be the case with Dr. Jekyll since he eventually becomes unable to replicate the potion required to turn himself back after becoming Mr. Hyde and will eventually be stuck as Mr. Hyde permanently. At this point, it’s likely that while Mr. Hyde would resist confinement, Jekyll would plead for such an option as he eventually resorts to suicide in order to stop Mr. Hyde’s crimes in the book.
Real Lessons About Insanity and Drug Use
While Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde may be a work of fiction, the exploration of responsibility for a person’s actions while under the influence of drugs or pure insanity is very relevant even in today’s criminal justice system. If you have been accused of a crime and believe your drug use was responsible, please call (760) 643-4050 to schedule a consultation with defense attorney Peter M. Liss. Depending on the circumstances of your case, you may even qualify for a mental health or drug diversion program to help keep you out of jail or prison.
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