Most crime needs intent for the accused to be held liable. In some instances, the defendant was intoxicated, either voluntarily or involuntarily. Because the state of intoxication has affected their mental faculties and eliminated the intent required to carry out some forms of crime, the defendant simply cannot be held liable for the offense.
Of course, it is implied that intoxication as a defense cannot be used if the state of intoxication is an element of the crime itself, like drunk driving or public intoxication.
Voluntary and involuntary intoxication
How a person became intoxicated is important, and determines if it is applicable in their defense.
Voluntary intoxication. The defendant willingly consumes alcohol or substances, and knows about the effects of said alcohol or substances. Crimes that require specific intent can use this as part of their defense.
Involuntary intoxication. The defendant has consumed alcohol or substances, but they were unaware, unwilling, or had an adverse reaction to the substance. Several crimes can be successfully defended against, even general intent crimes, if the defense can prove that the defendant was totally unaware of their actions.
Note that intoxication as a defense cannot be used unless the level of inebriety is extreme enough to heavily influence a person’s decision-making skills.
What are general intent crimes?
For general intent crimes, voluntary intoxication is not a valid defense. Some examples are:
- Drug possession
- Sexual assault
What are specific intent crimes?
Specific intent crimes need intent, malice, and/ logical thinking to execute. Both voluntary and involuntary intoxication can be used as to defend against these accusations.
- First-degree murder
- Attempted murder
- Grand larceny
- Crime of robbery
Some states allow voluntary intoxication as a valid defense even if it is a well-known fact that consumption of these substances can influence their ability to distinguish right from wrong, and because they were simply too inebriated or drugged. This defense is usually only viable for crimes with specific intent as these crimes require planning (implies thinking logically), intent (implies willingness to commit the crime, which in turn implies that they are aware that it is illegal), and some form of reward by committing the crime (like burglary and forgery).
However, this may not clear a defendant of their charges, and it is entirely possible that they are charged with a related crime that does not require specific intent. It is also difficult to use this as a defense because people can take advantage of it. One notable case involves a man who prepared and planned to kill his wife but is unwilling to go through with it. By drinking, he gave himself “Dutch Courage” to commit murder. The House of Lords ruled that the intent was already formed, even before the killing took place.
For involuntary consumption, the defendant was unaware that their drink was “spiked” or was forced to consume the substance, thus they cannot be held liable for their actions. Because of this, it’s possible for the defendant to be acquitted, or have lesser penalties. In this case, the person will be treated similarly to the Insanity Defense, as they cannot distinguish right from wrong during the time they were intoxicated. Several circumstances of intoxication also falls under involuntary consumption:
- Pathological intoxication. The defendant did not know about the adverse reactions from consuming the substance. For example, a person might have allergies that makes them heavily intoxicated, even if the amount consumed was small.
- Intoxication as a physical impairment. If the defendant suffers from physical impairment due to prolonged voluntary intoxication (i.e. addiction), then they can use that as the basis of their defense if the impairment qualifies as legal insanity.
Through intoxication defense, it might be possible for you to be acquitted, or receive a lesser charge. If you have consumed alcohol or a substance, knowingly or not, and yet has been accused of a crime, then let a Las Vegas DUI lawyer know about it so he can discuss the details with you.
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