Using Impairment Defense in Criminal Cases

When it comes to impairment and defenses, there are ways that people who are charged with crimes can either lessen the crime that they’re charged with or have a complete defense to the crime.  It depends on what the impairment is.  It depends on why they’re impaired.  Voluntary intoxication which is another defense in this list is not really a defense in California, except in specific intent crimes.

But when you’re talking about impairment, you’re probably using talking about some sort of mental impairment.  Sometimes people can be temporarily insane for various reasons.  I’ve seen people who start to hallucinate because they’re addicted to methamphetamine and taking it over a long period of time.  I’ve seen people who actually have schizophrenia and based on that while they’re in one of their episodes, they commit some sort of a criminal offense.

Best Argument for Using Impairment Defense

Usually the best arguments for impairment is when the person is doing something that just doesn’t make sense.  In other words, it doesn’t have a criminal purpose behind it.  If you’re claiming you’re impaired and you’re stealing something or gaining some advantage or getting revenge on some enemy, that impairment is usually not going to save the day because the prosecutors, the judge and the jury are usually going to say, you have a criminal purpose behind what you’re doing and you’re just trying to mask that criminal purpose by claiming that you were impaired.

In fact, under CALCRIM 3428 Jury Instructions it states “You have heard evidence that the defendant may have suffered from a mental. You may consider this evidence only for the limited purpose of deciding whether, at the time of the charged crime, the defendant acted with the intentor mental state required for that crime.” 

But if on the other hand, you’re doing something that simply doesn’t make any sense, you’re never going to be able to get out of it because you’re not going to be able to get away, you’re not benefiting in any way, then that starts to put the tentacles out there for an impairment defense.

Knowing Right From Wrong

The bottom line is, when we commit any criminal act we’ve got to have the ability to know right from wrong and if somebody is operating under some impairment — whether it be alcohol use, whether it be a mental impairment — there’s all sorts of different impairments that can come up in these criminal defense cases in the San Fernando Valley in Los Angeles — that’s when you really need to sit down with an attorney and talk to them about it.  I discuss these cases all the time and I’m going to have a good feel, having done this for twenty-five years, whether you really do have an impairment defense or not.

If you do have an impairment defense, then we’re going to see how we can prove that.  In other words, we may get experts involved.  We may get a psychiatrist or psychologist to evaluate you, write a report and start to begin to lay the foundation for the defense, because you can’t just claim you’re impaired and that’s the end of it.  You have to prove it.

When you’re asserting a defense in a criminal case like impairment, they’re not just going to take your word for it.  Yes, you have the presumption of innocence, but once they bring forth evidence that shows that you committed a crime, if you’re going to assert a defense, the presumption now swings over to you to be able to show the elements of that defense and show the defense applies to your particular case.

Contact Our Law Firm To Review Your Case

So, if you’ve got an impairment issues, get in front of an attorney like me as soon as possible.  Pick up the phone.  We’ll sit down and go over everything under the cloak of the attorney/client privilege in my office and we’ll see if you really do have an impairment defense that can help you in your criminal case and if you do, we’ll then start to put the pieces in place to assert that defense in the right way and get you the best possible outcome.