When can intoxication be used as a defense in a criminal case?
In California, this defense can only be used in limited circumstances. The California legislature and the law controlling criminal cases in LA County is certainly not going to allow someone to become intoxicated and commit crimes at will. The intoxication defense can successfully be used if a person is being charged with a specific intent crime. An example of one of the limited times voluntary intoxication can be used in a criminal case relates to a person charged with attempted murder. The prosecutor must prove that person could form a specific intent to kill. Obviously, if the defendant was too intoxicated to do that, the prosecutors will not be able to prove attempted murder.
One important distinction to make in an intoxication defense case is the distinction between a voluntary intoxication and involuntary intoxication. In other words, if somebody slipped something in another person’s drink causing them to become intoxicated and that person does something illegal, they would have a very good defense. If on the other hand someone of their own volition drinks a bunch of alcohol gets in a car and kills someone, they would have a much more difficult time trying to use intoxication to defend themselves.
The intoxication defense is usually not going to be a very good defense when it comes to a criminal case in LA. The legislature is not going to let people get away with crimes just because they got themselves intoxicated.
Specific Intent Crimes
One area though where it is a nice defense is when you’re talking about specific intent crimes. In other words, the person had to be able to form the specific intent to do something related to the particular crime, but because they were so drunk, high on drugs or whatever intoxicant, they were not able to form that specific intent, so that person is going to have to be pretty out of it in order to be able to assert that defense. Because remember, the temptation is — the judge, the prosecutors and even juries — they don’t want to give someone a free pass just because they got themselves intoxicated somehow and committed a crime.
Where I see it as an effective defense — again, depending on the circumstances — you have to have some mitigating factors in your favor — is related to an attempted murder charge, because with attempted murder you have to be able to form the specific intent to kill and if you can’t form that intent because you’re so drunk or high, whatever the case may be, then you certainly might have a viable defense there.
But I think in combination with that viable intoxication defense, you’ve got to have some facts that make it look good for you. In other words, you get in an argument. Maybe the other person is being too aggressive, you because you’re drunk go too far, shoot the person for example, but you really weren’t intending to kill them or you couldn’t form that specific intent to kill.
Negotiate Charges to a Lesser Crime
Now, another interesting thing about this intoxication defense is that you’re usually looking at some other crime. It usually just mitigates things down. Like it will mitigate down an attempted murder where you’re looking at fifteen to life, down to some other crime like attempted voluntary manslaughter, assault with a deadly weapon which is a general intent crime. So, a lot of times you’re not completely getting off just because you’re able to assert the intoxication defense in a case in Los Angeles. A lot of times you’re going to get some lesser general intent crime where intoxication cannot be a defense to that particular crime, and therefore, if you did something that’s criminal, you’re going to held responsible for it
So, if you’re thinking, do I have a defense here because I was so high, I was so drunk, you’re gonna need to sit down with an attorney — someone that can really look at all the facts of your case and say okay, here’s what I think a jury would do under your circumstances, and then once you have that conversation, then you’re really in a position to know whether the intoxication defense in a LA criminal case makes sense for you or whether it just simply is not going to work and you need to take some other route — whether that be by way of some sort of a plea negotiation or some other defense or angle that can get you off the case if that’s what your goal is in your criminal matter.
Case Review by our Defense Lawyers
In these type of cases they turn on the specific facts of the particular case. Therefore, your best approach is to sit down with a seasoned criminal defense attorney and go over your case step-by-step, that way you can get a true indication of what can and cannot be done.