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United States v. Carter

United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division

October 7, 2014

DAVID CARTER, Defendant.


ROBERT M. DOW, Jr., District Judge.

This matter is before the Court on Defendant David Carter's notice of intoxication defense and request for pretrial ruling on admissibility of evidence and jury instruction [24] and on the Government's motion to exclude argument regarding intoxication [26]. For the reasons set forth below, the Court grants in part and denies in part both motions [24 and 26].

I. Background

According to Defendant David Carter, he has a lifelong history of homelessness and a lengthy, well-documented history of alcoholism. In 2008, Carter was charged with robbing the Community Bank located on W. 35th Street in Chicago, and, in 2010, he was sentenced to 77 months in prison. Prior to June 12, 2013, Carter was released to a Salvation Army halfway house to serve the remainder of his sentence. He was permitted to leave during the day, but had a nightly curfew. On June 12, 2013, the halfway house notified the United States Marshals that Carter did not return at curfew.

On October 30, 2013, David Carter was charged in a two-count indictment with (1) escaping the halfway house in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 751(a) (Count One) and (2) attempted bank robbery in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2113(a) (Count Two). As to Count 2, the indictment alleges that on June 14, 2013, 2 days after he failed to return for curfew, Carter robbed the Community Bank again. According to the indictment, at approximately 1:45 p.m. on June 14, Carter entered the bank and approached an area staffed by two bank employees. Carter who allegedly was slurring his words and struggling to stand upright, told one of the bank employees that he had forgotten something at home. Carter then left the bank and returned approximately 10 minutes later. At that point, he allegedly handed an employee a crinkled piece of paper that said, "I NEED $20, 000 OR I WILL SHOOT YOU." The employee told Carter that they did not keep money in her area of the bank, and Carter responded, "Okay, okay, " and then walked out of the bank.

FBI agents located Carter at Hines Veterans Administration hospital ("Hines") four days after the robbery; he had been there since June 16, 2013. Following the robbery attempt, on June 16, Carter allegedly was taken via ambulance to a hospital where doctors determined that he was suffering from suicidal ideations and depression and was severely intoxicated.[1] He then voluntarily checked himself into Hines, was admitted to the psychiatric ward ("2 South") at Hines, a "lockdown" section of the hospital, and was treated for depression and alcoholism.[2]

On June 18, FBI Agent Sean Burke confirmed that Carter was located at Hines, went to Hines, secured a written waiver of Carter's Miranda rights, and then interviewed Carter. According to the Government, Carter admitted to the agents that he fled the Salvation Army halfway house on June 12. He said that he started drinking heavily after fleeing and had slept in a vacant lot near the bank on the night of June 13. He said that he did not have a recollection of June 14, the day of the robbery, other than drinking heavily. Agents also showed Carter surveillance photographs from the robbery. During the suppression hearing, FBI Agent Sean Burke testified that Carter identified himself as the individual depicted in two photos. Carter consented to the seizure of the clothing that he was wearing when he checked into the hospital, which he said he had worn since leaving the halfway house.

Carter was medically cleared for release on June 21, 2013, at which point he was taken into police custody. Carter represents to the Court that he anticipates going to trial on the attempted bank robbery charge, but will enter a plea of guilty to escape as charged in Count One of the indictment, pursuant to a written plea declaration.

II. Analysis

Carter seeks to argue a defense to attempted bank robbery: specifically, that he could not form the requisite intent to commit the crime because he was intoxicated at the time of the offense. He also intends to argue that his drunkenness bears on an element of the crime of attempted bank robbery: namely, that he was too drunk to actually intimidate or threaten anyone, including the bank teller to whom he allegedly handed a demand note. The Government maintains that voluntary intoxication is not a defense to attempted bank robbery, a general intent crime, and requests that the Court instruct the jury that intoxication is not a defense to attempted bank robbery and bar the defense from arguing intoxication in defense. The Government's motion, although it focuses on the intent issue, asks the Court to exclude "argument regarding intoxication"; thus, presumably the Government also seeks to bar Defendant from using his intoxication to negate an element of the crime. The Court will address the two issues in turn.

A. Intent

Carter has been charged with attempted bank robbery. At common law, attempt offenses carry a requirement that the defendant specifically intend to commit the underlying crime. See United States v. Cote, 504 F.3d 682, 687 (7th Cir. 2007). "In general, the crime of attempt requires the specific intent to commit a crime and a substantial step towards the commission of that crime." United States v. Johnson, 376 F.3d 689, 693 (7th Cir. 2004); see also United States v. Fiedeke, 384 F.3d 407, 411 (7th Cir. 2004) (agreeing that specific intent instruction appropriate on the charge of attempted drug possession); United States v. Bailey, 227 F.3d 792, 797 (7th Cir. 2000) (to prove attempt, the government must show specific intent to complete the underlying crime); Welch v. United States, 604 F.3d 408, 418 (7th Cir. 2010) ("attempt' is a specific intent crime").

Intoxication is a defense to specific intent crimes, but it is not a defense to general intent crimes. See United States v. Reed, 991 F.2d 399, 400-01 (7th Cir. 1993). Thus, whether Carter may assert an intoxication defense turns upon whether attempted bank robbery is a specific or general intent crime. Section 2113(a), the statute under which the Government indicted Carter, states as follows:

(a) Whoever, by force and violence, or by intimidation, takes, or attempts to take, from the person or presence of another, or obtains or attempts to obtain by extortion any property or money or any other thing of value belonging to, or in the care, custody, control, management, or ...

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