“But I Was Drunk” – The Defense of Intoxication
You have been charged with a crime and you assert that you had been drinking. Does the fact that you were drinking assist in your defense? The answer is, it depends. If after reading this article you have more questions, call Los Angeles criminal defense attorney Ambrosio E. Rodriguez of The Rodriguez Law Group for a free consultation.
Voluntary vs. Involuntary
A distinction within the defense of intoxication is whether the intoxication was voluntary or involuntary. The difference will allow the defense to be a complete one or only a partial defense. Involuntary intoxication is a complete defense to any crime. Generally, the intoxication must occur by no fault of the defendant, for example, that he was not aware what he was consuming was an intoxicating substance or that he was forced or tricked to consume such substance.
Voluntary intoxication occurs where one chooses to consume an impairing substance. While intoxicated the individual commits a crime. It is not a complete defense. It does not eliminate criminal liability. It does, however, make it harder for the prosecution to prove you had a culpable state of mind to commit the crime.
Voluntary intoxication is a more commonly raised defense but it is only applicable to certain crimes. Whether intoxication can be raised as a defense is dependent on the crime charged.
There are two types of crimes, general intent crimes and specific intent crimes. General intent is the intent to perform the act. Specific intent is the intent to achieve a specific consequence by the act. The intoxication defense is only applicable to specific intent crimes.
Specific intent and general intent describe the mens rea, or mental state, required for the crime. Intoxication is a mens rea defense that is a partial defense to negate the specific intent required and can result in a reduced conviction. The jurisdictions that permit intoxication as a defense can be used as evidence to raise reasonable double on the issue of intent.
Alcohol is a factor in a significant percentage of violent crimes. Mens rea defenses frequently arise in murder cases. The presence of malice distinguishes murder from manslaughter. Murder is a specific intent crime, for which intoxication can be raised to shed doubt on the required premeditation and deliberation required.
According to the California Penal Code §29.4, “No act committed by a person while in a state of voluntary intoxication is less criminal by reason of his or her having been in that condition. Evidence of voluntary intoxication shall not be admitted to negate the capacity to form any mental states for the crimes charged, including, but not limited to, purpose, intent, knowledge, premeditation, deliberation, or malice aforethought, with which the accused committed the act.”
However, “evidence of voluntary intoxication is admissible solely on the issue of whether or not the defendant actually formed a required specific intent, or, when charged with murder, whether the defendant premeditated, deliberated, or harbored express malice aforethought.”
If you are charged with murder or any other a specific intent crime such as any attempt crime, conspiracy, forgery and you were intoxicated it may assist in the mitigation of your case.