Sexual Assault and Defendant/Victim Intoxication: Jurors' Perceptions of Guilt1


  • 1

    This research was supported by a research grant awarded to the authors by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (Grant #410–97–1260).

2 Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Anne-Marie Wall, Department of Psychology, York University, 4700 Keele Street, Toronto, Ontario M3J IP3, Canada.


The present research investigates how defendant and claimant intoxication operates in sexual-assault trials. Participants (N= 323) were provided with a description of a sexualassault trial in which the intoxication level (sober, moderate, extreme) of both parties was systematically varied. While the introduction of alcohol altered participants' perceptions of the case and of the parties involved, a complex interplay between the defendant's and complainant's level of intoxication was apparent. When the complainant was sober, harsher judgments were rendered when the defendant was intoxicated, particularly at the extreme level. In contrast, when the complainant was moderately intoxicated, more guilty verdicts occurred when the defendant was similarly inebriated. Finally, when the complainant was extremely intoxicated, the defendant's beverage consumption did not exert any discemible impact. Evaluations of both parties' abilities to self-regulate their behavior and for the female target to become sexually disinhibited were also influenced by the intoxication manipulation.