Difference between revisions of "Intoxication"

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Revision as of 16:47, 7 April 2010

Defendants who commit crimes under the influence of drugs or alcohol sometimes argue that their mental functioning was so impaired that they cannot be held responsible for their actions. Generally, only involuntary intoxication is a defense. Because defendants should know that substances can impair mental functioning, voluntary intoxication is not a defense. Thus, defendants should be held legally responsible if they commit crimes as a result of their voluntary use of substances.

  • Voluntary intoxication (self-induced, without duress) is a defense in some jurisdictions if the defendant is accused of committing a crime that requires "specific" rather than "general" intent. Specific intent crimes require proof that the defendant intended the consequences of the crime in addition to intending to do the physical act that leads to the consequences. Specific intent crimes are crimes like attempted murder (the defendant must have the intent to complete the murder) and conspiracy (the defendant must have the intent to complete the crime he conspired to commit). If a defendant was voluntarily intoxicated when he committed a specific intent crime, he can argue he was too incapacitated to have formed the specific intent required. This is only a partial defense and does not entirely excuse the defendant's actions. In this situation, the defendant would usually be convicted of another crime that does not require proof of specific intent.
  • Some jurisdictions treat involuntary intoxication like mental illness. In those jurisdictions, if a defendant meets the applicable test for the insanity defense based on his involuntary intoxication, he can be acquitted. Intoxication is involuntary only when a defendant takes an intoxicating substance without knowledge of its nature; or under direct duress imposed by another; or pursuant to medical advice while unaware of the substance's intoxicating effect.