Case Briefs

R v King

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Facts Edit

King was charged with impaired driving. He went to the dentist's office to have teeth pulled and was given sodium pentathol, an anesthetic. He was warned not to drive until he was fit to do so and was reminded of this after the surgery when he "seemed fine" according to testimony. He got in his car, drove, and caused an accident. Medical evidence showed that patients of the drug usually feel fine, but then slip into unconsciousness soon after. King said he did not know anything about the drug that he was on. He was convicted at trial; the conviction was quashed upon appeal and the Crown appealled to the Supreme Court.


  1. Is mens rea relating both to the act of driving and to the state of being impaired by alcohol or drug an essential element of the offence of impaired driving (now s. 253 of the Criminal Code)?
  2. Was he voluntarily under the influence? Did he willingly drive under to influence?


Appeal dismissed, appellate court judgment upheld.


The trial court judge stated that the prohibition to driving while impaired by drugs is express, and that King's defence that the act was involuntary was not a defence for this section of the Code. However, the Court of Appeal disagreed and stated that no fault can be imputed to the accused, as the act was involuntary.

Ritchie, writing for the court, stated that there can be no actus reus unless it is the result of a willing mind at liberty to make a definite choice or decision. In other words, there must be willpower to do an act for the actor to be convicted. There must be an act proceeding from a free will that brings about the mental conditions necessary to satisfy s.253, which did not occur here.


There can be no actus reus unless it is the result of a willing mind at liberty to make a definite choice or decision.

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