It is important to note that it is the prosecution’s responsibility to prove that the accused intended to commit the crime as a necessary element of proving guilt. Further, the state or federal prosecutor has the burden of proving each and every element of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt in order to find a criminal defendant guilty.
As such, intent is important to establish by the prosecution in a criminal case. If the state or federal prosecutor is unable to meet their burden, then the defendant that has received criminal charges will not be able to be convicted of those charges. In other words, the criminal charges that were brought should be dismissed.
The criminal defenses available to a person accused of a crime will be dependent upon the type of crime committed. Each type of crime has specific elements that must be proven by the state or federal prosecution in order for the defendant to be found guilty of the crime.
For instance, theft is an intent-specific crime. In the case of theft, the intent element of the crime is generally the intent to deprive the property’s owner of their property permanently. As such, if the prosecution is unable to prove specific intent, the accused may be able to successfully argue that the prosecution has failed to satisfy their burden. Importantly, the specific intent defense is entirely dependent upon the judge or jury believing the intent of the accused.
What Is an Intoxication Criminal Defense?
It is important to first note that intoxication is not an excuse for criminal conduct, but rather it is a legal defense that is asserted by an individual as a means of demonstrating that they lacked the mental capacity to form the intent required by law to be convicted of certain crimes.
Although intoxication is a common and credible defense, it can be difficult to prove and likely will not completely absolve the defendant. Both voluntary and involuntary intoxication could reduce the punishment for specific intent crimes. Intoxication as a legal defense is a very complex area of law, and the standards for asserting intoxication as a criminal defense differ from state to state.
What Is Involuntary Intoxication Defense?
When asserting an involuntary intoxication defense, the person accused of committing the crime claims that they were made to be intoxicated without their knowledge or against their will. In those specific cases, intoxication may provide a total defense for that defendant who became involuntarily intoxicated.
For example, assume the defendant committed a crime as a result of being unknowingly drugged or forced to consume large amounts of alcohol. In that case, the state prosecutor may have to dismiss the charges brought against them on the basis that they lacked the criminal intent to commit the crime due to being involuntarily intoxicated.
Important, the involuntary intoxication defense may be asserted by the defense for both specific and general intent crimes. Because the defendant was intoxicated through no fault of their own and, as such, could not have formed the intent to commit either a general or specific intent crime.
Once again, it is up to the defense to assert the involuntary intoxication defense, which means they will have to provide sufficient evidence to demonstrate that they were involuntarily intoxicated and not voluntarily intoxicated. If the defendant was voluntarily intoxicated, then the legal defense may not be available to them.
What Is Voluntary Intoxication Defense?
It is important to note once again that intoxication generally does not serve as a criminal defense to criminal charges in cases in which the defendant became intoxicated voluntarily. This is because criminal law holds people responsible for their choice to become intoxicated, even if they would not have committed the crime if they had been sober.
However, if the defendant can show that the influence of drugs or alcohol made the defendant unable to be guilty of intentionally committing the crime due to their diminished capacity, then intoxication may justify a reduced charge.
Further, some states do allow intoxication to be used as a criminal defense to a specific intent crime. However, in most states, the defense of voluntary intoxication can only be used to mitigate or lessen the weight of the crime rather than completely negate it. For example, a defendant’s criminal charge of murder may be reduced to manslaughter if they can prove that they were intoxicated during the crime and were thus unaware of what they were doing.
Similarly, a criminal assault charge may be reduced to a lesser charge based on the defendant’s intoxication. In fact, in the state of Texas, there is actually a separate charge known as intoxication assault that is often utilized by state prosecutors in punishing criminal actors that were intoxicated at the time that they assaulted someone. Typically, such a charge carries less severe penalties than a normal assault charge where the defendant was sober at the time they assaulted the victim of the crime.
What Are Some Other Legal Issues Involved With Intoxication Criminal Defense?
Once again, a person who is accused and charged with committing a crime becomes a criminal defendant. As a criminal defendant, the person accused of the crime is presumed to be innocent until the government proves that they are guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. However, an intoxication defense may serve to either excuse or justify their criminal behavior and may prevent a criminal conviction or reduce their criminal charge.
One of the main legal issues involved with intoxication as a criminal defense is providing sufficient evidence to prove that the intoxication was involuntary. This is because the voluntary intoxication defense has a checkered history of success, with some states outright prohibiting defendants from raising voluntary intoxication as a defense to certain crimes.
Further, even if a defendant is successful in convincing a judge or jury that the defendant could not form the intent to be convicted of a specific intent crime by asserting the intoxication defense, that defendant may still be convicted of a lesser offense that has only a general intent requirement. As such, successfully asserting the intoxication criminal defense often requires an experienced attorney knowledgeable in asserting legal defenses to criminal charges.
Should I Consult a Lawyer?
If you have been charged with committing a criminal action while you were in an intoxicated state, especially a felony charge, it is important to consult with and work with an experienced local criminal lawyer. An experienced and local criminal lawyer will be knowledgeable about your state’s laws and history regarding intoxication as a legal defense.
Further, an experienced criminal lawyer will also be able to help you determine whether there are any other legal defenses that may be available to you based on the specifics of your case. They will also determine whether your state even allows for a diminished capacity or intoxication defense.
Additionally, an attorney will also be able to help you assert your best criminal defense and represent you at any necessary in-person pre-trial criminal proceeding. Finally, an attorney will also be able to represent you during the trial phase of your prosecution, should your case proceed to trial.