What’s the Difference Between Voluntary and Involuntary Intoxication?

Being intoxicated may be a defense to some crimes.

What’s the Difference Between Voluntary and Involuntary Intoxication?

Getting drunk or high is often linked to poor decisions. In most cases, those bad choices are relatively minor — like going home from the bar with someone you normally wouldn’t look at twice. But in other cases, a person may do something far more serious while under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs, like committing a crime. This raises an important question: can intoxication serve as a defense to a crime?

The answer, according to a criminal defense attorney in Los Angeles County, CA: it depends. In the criminal justice system, there are two types of intoxication that may be used a defense to a crime, voluntary and involuntary. Understanding the difference between the two is the first step in determining whether intoxication can be used as a defense.

Voluntary intoxication means that a person voluntarily ingested, injected or took an intoxicating substance. This may include things such as beer, wine, liquor, a prescription or street drug, or any other substance. In contrast, involuntary intoxication occurs when a person becomes intoxicated without choosing to do so. This may occur when someone consumes alcohol or drugs without knowing it, or when that person is forced or tricked into consuming an intoxicating substance.

Voluntary intoxication can be used as a defense in specific intent crimes. This type of crime requires that the prosecution prove that the defendant acted with a specific purpose. For example, the crime of burglary requires proof that a person entered into a building, room within a building or a locked vehicle or structure with the intent to commit a felony or theft. In other words, to be convicted of burglary, a person must have the specific intent to break the law when entering into the place. If a person is drunk at the time, then they may not be able to form that specific intent. A criminal defense attorney in Los Angeles County, CA may present evidence of voluntary intoxication to show that a defendant didn’t (and couldn’t) have the necessary intent to be convicted of a crime.

Involuntary intoxication can be used as a defense to any crime. It is considered a complete defense. If a person can prove that they were intoxicated through no fault or choice of their own when they committed a crime, then they may be acquitted of a crime. For example, if Mary goes to a party and eats a brownie without knowing that it contained marijuana, she would be involuntarily intoxicated. If she leaves the party and decides to drive home, she could be charged with driving under the influence of drugs (DUID). Her criminal defense attorney in Los Angeles County, CA could introduce evidence of involuntary intoxication to defend against these charges.

If you have been charged with a crime, the Chambers Law Firm is here for you. We will aggressively advocate for your rights and your freedom, and fight for the best possible outcome. To learn more or to schedule a free initial consultation, reach out today at 714-760-4088 or dchambers@clfca.com.

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