What part does alcohol play in crime?


In Germany, one homicide in three is committed by a killer who is under the influence of alcohol. Is that to say that alcohol is, in fact, instrumental in the criminal act? Is it the proverbial last drop that makes the cup run over? In their book “Alkohol und Schuldfähigkeit” (» “Alcohol and the Issue of Guilt”), German professors Frank Schneider and Helmut Frister from Düsseldorf University attempt an answer to this question.

Frank Schneider discusses the medical and psychological consequences of excessive alcohol consumption and alcohol dependency, and the symptoms of acute alcoholic poisoning. He explains why a given blood alcohol concentration in the same person may lead to highly divergent reactions according to the particular circumstances. A great many ambient factors can influence the behaviour of a person who is under the influence of alcohol. The impact of such ambient factors is greater than the impact of the alcohol itself. However, the question remains as to whether a person who commits a criminal offence while under the influence of alcohol should be regarded as being any less responsible in comparison with a person who commits a criminal act while in full control of his or her faculties. Many people spontaneously feel that persons under the influence of drink or drugs are precisely rather less responsible than when they are sober. Professors Schneider and Frister now raise doubts. After all, it is not impossible that a person intending to commit a crime will first drink a few to work up the courage and therefore end up under the influence. Many of us are inclined to drink when we are tense and nervous, but the decision to actually consume large amounts of alcohol is ours, and ours alone. No-one is forced to drink. Both authors insist that the actions that follow alcohol abuse cannot simply be ascribed to the effects of drink.

Alkohol und Schuldfähigkeit
Frank Schneider, Helmut Frister
Springer Verlag Heidelberg 2002,
39,95 EUR
ISBN 3-540-41924-1


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