August 23, 2022 By Paul Wallin

What Is the Intoxication Defense? 

In criminal law, intoxication is a defense that allows defendants to reduce their liability for a crime due to substance intoxication in limited circumstances. Sometimes, crimes require the defendant to have a certain mental state called the mens rea in order for the defendant to be guilty. This means that if the defendant was under the influence of drugs or alcohol during the commission of the crime, he may be able to claim that he did not understand or know what he was doing and thus diminish his responsibility. In addition, if a defendant has been found guilty, intoxication may serve as a mitigating factor that decreases penalties. However, the intoxication defense only applies in certain circumstances depending on whether the intoxication was voluntary and what level of intent is required by the criminal charge. If you have been accused of committing a crime while you were intoxicated, contact an experienced defense attorney as soon as possible to see if you qualify for this defense. 

Involuntary vs. Voluntary Intoxication 

Involuntary Intoxication 

Involuntary intoxication occurs when someone unknowingly consumes an intoxicating substance or when someone is forced to do so. For instance, if a woman’s drink is spiked with a date rape drug or if someone eats brownies not knowing they contain marijuana, they are involuntarily intoxicated. Under California law, involuntary intoxication is a complete defense to a crime in most cases. This means that defendants cannot be convicted of crimes committed while they were involuntarily intoxicated. 

Crimes are classified as either general intent or specific intent crimes. For specific intent crimes, meaning the defendant had the intent to commit an act and achieve a specific result, involuntary intoxication can prevent the defendant from forming the requisite intent. For example, the defendant may not be capable of understanding the nature of his acts. As such, involuntary intoxication can be a defense to the criminal charges. Similarly, involuntary intoxication can also be a defense to general intent crimes, where the defendant had the intent to commit an act without the intent to achieve a specific result. In these cases, the intoxicating substance may prevent the defendant from understanding that he is doing something wrong. 

Voluntary Intoxication 

Voluntary intoxication occurs when someone willingly uses an intoxicating substance knowing that it has an intoxicating effect. A defense of voluntary intoxication is much harder to establish than that of involuntary intoxication. Even if voluntary intoxication is an available defense, juries are less likely to accept this defense because the defendant brought the intoxication upon himself. 

This defense is only valid for specific intent crimes. Voluntary intoxication is never a defense for general intent crimes. For specific intent crimes, voluntary intoxication can prevent the defendant from achieving the requisite intent to commit the crime. In certain cases, defendants may also use the defense of voluntary intoxication to reduce their charges to a lesser crime. This means that even if the defense doesn’t completely exonerate the defendant, it does reduce his overall culpability for the crime. 

Contact Wallin & Klarich Today 

If you have been arrested for a crime while intoxicated, contact Wallin & Klarich as soon as possible to see how we can help. With 40+ years of experience, Wallin & Klarich is your best choice amongst Southern California criminal defense firms. Our attorneys have helped thousands of clients in a wide range of cases, and we have the skills and resources to help you clear your name and avoid jail time. 

With offices in Orange County, Riverside, San Bernardino, Victorville, Torrance, West Covina, Los Angeles, and San Diego, you are sure to find an available and convenient attorney near you. 

Discover how our team can assist you. Contact us today, toll-free at (877) 4-NO-JAIL or (877) 466-5245 for a free consultation with a skilled defense attorney.

AUTHOR: Paul Wallin

Paul Wallin is one of the most highly respected attorneys in Southern California. His vast experience, zealous advocacy for his clients and extensive knowledge of many areas of the law make Mr. Wallin a premiere Southern California attorney. Mr. Wallin founded Wallin & Klarich in 1981. As the senior partner of Wallin & Klarich, Mr. Wallin has been successfully representing clients for more than 30 years. Clients come to him for help in matters involving assault and battery, drug crimes, juvenile crimes, theft, manslaughter, sex offenses, murder, violent crimes, misdemeanors and felonies. Mr. Wallin also helps clients with family law matters such as divorce and child custody.

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