Intoxication as a Defense in a Criminal Case

Intoxication as a Defense in a Criminal Case

Intoxication is something that affects millions of people every day. There are many symptoms of intoxication, from lowered inhibitions and faster anger to blurred vision and impaired movement. In a worst-case scenario, these symptoms can lead to crime—whether that be minor or serious. Though it is not an excuse for criminal conduct, intoxication deprives a person of the mental capacity to form intent. To convict people of certain crimes, the law requires they have intent. Therefore, intoxication as a defense applies in very limited circumstances and will typically depend on whether the inebriation was voluntary or involuntary. Learn more about intoxication as a defense in a criminal case below.

Involuntary Intoxication

Involuntary intoxication takes place when someone tricks or forces another individual into consuming a substance such as drugs or alcohol. This may also occur when someone has an allergy or is subject to the unintended effects of legal prescription medications. For example, involuntary intoxication occurs when someone places a date rape drug into another person’s drink without their knowledge.

In a criminal case, specific intent means the defendant planned to commit the crime in question. To put it simply, the defendant knew what he or she was doing. However, in these types of cases, an involuntary intoxication claim can prevent the defendant from forming the required intent.

For example, take assault. Assault is a crime that requires a specific intent to cause harm. If a person becomes violent due to involuntary inebriation and commits the assault, he or she could argue the intoxication prevented them from forming an intent to harm. This defense does not necessarily absolve the defendant of liability, rather, it reduces the overall responsibility for the crime. More often than not, this defense will reduce the charges to a lesser crime if successfully proven.

Voluntary Intoxication

Quite different than involuntary intoxication, voluntary is much more difficult to establish as a reliable defense. It’s only an applicable defense for certain crimes, and even then, it’s a much less acceptable defense for the judge and jury. This is because the defendant brought the intoxication upon him or herself.

A defendant could technically argue voluntary intoxication as a defense to theft since he or she was so far under the influence, they could not form the intent to commit the crime. Similar to involuntary intoxication, voluntary intoxication could reduce the charges to a lesser crime, but this happens much less often.

If you have been charged with a crime and think that you could use involuntary or voluntary intoxication as a defense, turn to Jared Justice—a Clackamas County criminal and DUII attorney. He can help you decide whether these defenses will prove worthwhile for your case and help solidify a strong case for you. Reach out now!