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, another defense in this list, is not a defense in California, except in specific intent crimes.

But when you're talking about impairment, you're probably talking about some mental impairment.  Sometimes people can be temporarily insane for various reasons.

I've seen people start to hallucinate because they're addicted to methamphetamine and take it over a long period.  I've seen people who have schizophrenia and based on that, while they're in one of their episodes, they commit some criminal offense.

Best Argument for Using Impairment Defense

Usually, the best argument for impairment is when someone is doing something that doesn't make sense.  In other words, it doesn't have an illegal purpose behind it.

Suppose 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 generally going to say. In that case, you have an illegal purpose behind what you're doing, and you're just trying to mask that unlawful purpose by claiming that you were impaired.

In fact, under CALCRIM 3428 Jury Instructions, it states, “You heard evidence the defendant might have had a mental disorder. You can consider this evidence  for the limited purpose for deciding whether the  defendant acted with the intent required for that crime.” 

But suppose, on the other hand, you're doing something that simply doesn't make any sense. In that case, 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 are all sorts of different impairments that can come up in these criminal defense cases in the San Fernando Valley-  that's when you 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 feeling, having done this for twenty-five years, whether you do have an impairment defense or not.

If you do have an impairment defense, 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. Still, once they bring forth evidence that shows that you committed a crime, if you're going to assert a defense, the idea now swings over to you to be able to offer the elements of that defense and show the defense applies to your particular case.

Contact Our Defense Lawyers o Review Your Case

So, if you've got 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. 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.