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Intoxication Defense

There are two types of intoxication defense: Voluntary intoxicationinvoluntary intoxication.

Voluntary Intoxication

When the defendant voluntarily ingests an intoxicating drug or liquor, and thereafter commits a specific intent crime, the defendant is entitled to an acquittal of that crime, if he can prove that the intoxicating drug or liquor rendered him with the inability to form the mental state of mind called specific intent.

Specific intent means intentionally or knowingly. There are several different mental states in the criminal law, including negligence, recklesslness, willingness, etc., but specific intent means that the defendant acted intentionally when committing the crime (the act intended was the crime).

For example, the crime of robbery is the act of intentionally taking personal property, without legal justification, from a person, by force or fear, with the intent permanently deprive the victim of that personal property. Therefore, the crime of robbery is a specific intent crime because the act of taking the property is coupled with the defendant's intent to take the property.

Compare: The crime of driving under the influence is not a specific intent crime; nobody specifically intends to commit DUI.

Evidence of voluntary intoxication is not intended to be a complete defense to a crime, but rather, evidence of the lack of a particular mental state required for that crime. This means that the jury may consider the affects of alcohol on the defendant's ability to form a particular mental state but the jury does not have to accept the defendant's assertions. However, if the jury finds that the defendant was so intoxicated, even if that intoxication was voluntary, that the defendant could not have formed the particular mental state required to commit a particular crime, then the defendant is entitled to an acquittal of that criminal charge. 

Theoretically, voluntary intoxication could negate a mental state of mind required for a non-specific intent crimes, but in practice the defendant would likely need to be rendered unconscious for the defense to apply to non-specific intent crime. The list of specific intent crimes includes, but is not limited to, the following common criminal charges:

Involuntary Intoxication

If a defendant involuntarily ingests an intoxicating drug or liquor, and thereafter commits a crime, then the defendant is entitled to an acquittal of the criminal charges if he or she can prove that the crime was committed as a result of the effects of the intoxicating drug or liquor.

Involuntary means that the defendant did not know that he or she was ingesting a drug or liquor, or that the defendant was physically forced, or threatened with harm, to ingest the intoxicating drug or liquor.

The effects of the intoxicating drug or liquor must be severe. The intoxicating effect must render the defendant with the inability to understand the nature or quality of the act that he or she is committing, or render the defendant with the inability to understand the difference between right and wrong (similar to the defense of insanity).

The defense of involuntary intoxication can not be used if the defendant knew that he or she was ingesting an illegal drug or liquor, even if the defendant underestimated the effects of the illegal drug or liquor.

For more information on the defense of intoxication, contact our experienced criminal defense attorneys today for a free consultation. Our criminal attorneys have successfully handled hundreds of misdemeanor and felony charges in the Inland Empire and Los Angeles county. We are available seven days a week to explain your rights and review your defense options. Call today!


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