INTOXICATION AS A DEFENSE IN CALIFORNIA
When you evaluate whether intoxication can be used to defend a case in California, you must bear in mind that you start with the premise that law enforcement, the prosecutors and the judges our of the mind that people should not be able to escape their criminal acts just because they chose to drink alcohol or use a drug. Hence, voluntary intoxication usually has very little value related to trying to defend a criminal case in one of the criminal courts in Los Angeles.
Even juries do not like to let people get away with committing crimes just because they chose to get intoxicated and acted in a criminal manner. However, there is a limited, yet important, area of criminal defense where intoxication can be successfully used. This relates to a situation where it is clear that someone was intoxicated when they committed a crime and they did not have the mental ability to form the specific intent to commit the crime. A perfect example of this is when someone is charged with attempted murder and they where drunk at the time of the killing. If they were drunk to the point that they could not form the intent to kill another, then the defense could be utilized to successfully defend a charge that carries a sentence of fifteen years to life. Usually, under the above circumstances, the defendant in that scenario would be convicted of less serious crime that only requires a general intent.
If, on the other hand, a person is given a drug unknowingly and it causes them to commit a crime, then they could be in a position to have a complete defense to the crime. Most people, even the prosecutors and judges, can related to a situation like this and would not hold someone responsible for a crime if they were involuntarily intoxicated through no fault to their own. Much of this area of the law is based in common sense and the key inquiry will be whether the person who committed the acts that constitute a crime deserves to be convicted or not. Sometimes this inquiry yields a difference of opinion. This is where a top criminal defense attorney is crucial to tip the scales in your favor!
One of the key things that I do when I begin an attorney client relationship with a client is to set the ground rules and the road map out from the beginning. We meet in the privacy of my office and I make sure the client knows that telling me the complete truth about their situation is in their best interests. If I am not told something and it comes up later and is used against them, then I will usually not be as effective in defending them if I had know about it from the beginning. Further, I make it a point to let the client know what they are facing and what our plan will be moving forward, including how they can assist in their own defense.
Once the client knows what they are up against, what they can do to help and what the plan will be moving forward, a sense of calm and control are placed back in their life and I believe it makes the criminal process much more easy to handle.
A party who is voluntarily intoxicated can still be found guilty for crimes of general intent, but they may be declared incapable of having the specific intent necessary from some crimes. A defendant can invoke this defense if they have become intoxicated by willingly using any intoxicating drug, drink, or substance, knowing that it could produce an intoxicating effect, or willingly assuming the risk of that effect. However, if the crime results of an action with a natural and probable outcome, then this defense will not be available.
Evidence that a defendant was involuntarily intoxicated can be admitted to question a defendant’s mental capacity to commit a crime. A party is involuntarily intoxicated if he or she unknowingly ingested some intoxicating liquor, drug, or other substance, of if his or her intoxication was caused by the force, duress, fraud, or trickery of someone else, without any fault on the party of the intoxicated party.
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