Crime and Violence Concept with Handcuffs

Can Intoxication Be Used As a Valid Legal Defense?

McCready Law Group Feb. 20, 2023

Whenever you’re facing criminal charges, there are a number of defense options you and your attorney may consider using. Of these, one of the less frequently used and understood is a defense of intoxication, which can apply to both drugs and alcohol.  

Of course, there are some obvious crimes that are connected with intoxication. For instance, according to the Criminal Justice Statistics Center, each year in California, over 90,000 people are convicted of DUI offenses. In this case, intoxication would be incriminating. However, there are other crimes that may have been committed where intoxication can be used as a defense, usually to lighten the penalties instead of forgiving them.  

A criminal defense attorney can help you know your defense options. At McCready Law Group, our skilled lawyers are prepared to help you understand your individual case, show you your choices, and advocate for you. From our office in Long Beach, California, we diligently serve those in Cypress Hill and Lakewood. Reach out today for guidance, and we will help you fight for a brighter future.  

Intoxication as a Legal Defense  

Before you can adequately assess whether or not you can use intoxication as part of your defense, you must understand how the courts will look at this. Primarily, they make a distinction between voluntary intoxication and involuntary intoxication. As the names imply, voluntary intoxication occurs when the defendant knowingly and willingly consumes drugs or alcohol and becomes impaired, while involuntary intoxication happens when someone is forced or tricked into consuming drugs or alcohol which leads to impairment. You have a much higher likelihood of using involuntary intoxication as a defense over voluntary intoxication.  

Intent to Commit the Crime  

Coupled with knowing whether or not the defendant intended to become intoxicated or not is an evaluation of their intent. Intent to commit a crime and intoxication are linked in many ways, but it’s important to understand general intent vs. specific intent. The distinction between these comes down to whether the defendant intended the result of the crime, or simply intended to commit the crime with no forethought or intent of the result.  

General intent only means that an individual meant to do something they knew was against the law. Specific intent means that the individual intended to commit a crime and intended a specific result to come from it. If you were so intoxicated that you were unable to form this intent, this could be a viable defense.  

Intoxication Defense Limitations  

Even though the intoxication defense is rarely used, there are a couple of clear limits on how it can be presented in California courts: 

  • You can’t use this defense if the defendant had voluntarily already consumed one drug (or thought they were consuming that drug), but ended up consuming a different drug instead of or in addition to the first drug. 

  • You can’t use this defense if the defendant is a known alcoholic and claims they consume alcohol “involuntarily” because of their addiction. Whether or not this claim is true from a medical standpoint is irrelevant to how it’s used in court. 

Intoxication Defense vs. Temporary Insanity Defense  

Although the so-called insanity plea can be used under some circumstances, the courts make a legal distinction between being incapable of controlling your actions due to intoxication vs. mental insanity. Therefore, an insanity plea could only be used independently of any claims of intoxication.  

Speak With an Experienced Attorney  

If you’re in the Long Beach, California, area – including Cypress Hill and Lakewood – and have recently been charged with a crime you committed while intoxicated, don’t face the courts alone. Get a skilled criminal defense attorney, and reach out to the McCready Law Group. Call today to discuss your options for your defense.

Proudly serving Long Beach, Huntington Beach, Irvine, Lakewood, Orange County, CA, and the surrounding areas, including Santa Ana and Fountain Valley. Criminal Defense and White Collar Crime Lawyer in Orange County, Domestic Violence and Manslaughter Lawyer in Orange County.