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Is Intent Important to Establish?

In order to prove that a defendant committed a crime, the elements of the crime must be proven. Whether under state or federal law, the law spells out the elements of a given crime. When it comes to proving in court that a defendant committed a crime, if all the elements are not proven, the defendant cannot be convicted. The defendant may also provide criminal defenses in response to the criminal charges.

One element of a crime is almost always going to be intent. Intent may be general or specific. In the case of specific intent, in must be shown that the defendant had the intention of causing a result when they took the criminal action.

For example, in the case of theft, the defendant must be shown to have had the intent to permanently deprive another person of their property. General intent does not require the intention of a result, only the intention to take acton. Assault is an example of a general intent crime.

What is an Intoxication Criminal Defense?

The idea behind this defense is that, if a defendant was intoxicated by drugs or alcohol at the time the criminal action was performed, they could not have formed the requisite intent, and, therefore, cannot be convicted of the crime.

There are two types of intoxication defenses: involuntary and voluntary.

What is Involuntary Intoxication Defense?

When intoxication is involuntary, this means that the defendant was made to be intoxicated without their knowledge or against their will. This can be used as a defense against the intent element of a crime.

Since the defendant was intoxicated (and since it was through no fault of their own), they could not have formed intent to commit a crime. This may be a defense in both specific and general intent crimes.

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What is Voluntary Intoxication Defense?

When a defendant is intoxicated by alcohol or drugs voluntarily, the situation is different. It is not typically used as a defense to general intent crimes.

However, some states allow it to be used as a defense to a specific intent crime. In other 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 charge of murder may be reduced to manslaughter if they can prove that they were intoxicated during the crime, and unaware of what they were doing.

Should I Consult a Lawyer?

A criminal defense attorney can assist you with representation in court if you are charged with a specific intent crime. They can assist you with understanding the elements of the crime, specific vs. general intent, and preparing a defense.

Photo of page author Katie Hamblen

, LegalMatch Legal Writer

Last Modified: 04-05-2018 11:02 AM PDT

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