Being Drunk: A Defense to Criminal Charges

Alcohol affects the way people think and act, sometimes radically. Most individuals possibly have at least encountered one situation wherein they did or said something deplorable or shameful while under the influence of alcohol. However, would such a defense hold up in court if ever criminally charged for the act? “Being Drunk: a defense to criminal charges” is a complicated issue which can vary from case to case.

While people will claim intoxication as a defense in a criminal charge, courts don’t usually accept it as a defense in majority of criminal cases. Individuals make mistakes when not drunk, but more so when under the influence of liquor. Unfortunately for some individuals, getting drunk voluntarily is not a defense to most criminal cases.

Drunk and unconscious businessman lying on a counter

When considered as a defense

Voluntary intoxication is a situation wherein an individual imbibes alcohol to excess. In such a situation, it can be said that getting drunk is voluntary since the individual chose to drink alcohol in excess despite knowing the effects. Courts and legislators alike believe that people should be held accountable for their actions, irrespective of whether they are acting with all their faculties intact. On some occasion however, courts will allow a defendant to present evidence of intoxication to refute his mental capacity.

Intoxication as a defense however is not always honored by courts. Depending on the situation involved and the manner by which the intoxication is achieved, the court may however consider being drunk as a defense to a criminal charge filed against an individual. In general, being drunk may lessen a person’s liability to the perpetration of the crime but not totally free him from it. In other words, voluntary intoxication may lessen the defendant’s liability to the crime rather than let him off the hook completely.

Depending on the state where the crime is committed however, being drunk as a defense may only be accepted only when its aim is to disprove the mental condition (the intoxication is so severe that it is tantamount to insanity) of the defendant at the time that the crime was committed.

Not considered as a defense in certain cases

Being intoxicated in some specific cases is definitely not a defense against criminal charges. Take the case of drunk driving, in which case the drunk driver is being charged because he is inebriated while driving. Driving while under the influence of alcohol which resulted to the death of another person is referred to as automobile homicide.

Being drunk is not a defense in this case since operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of liquor is tantamount to negligence, which resulted to another person’s death. Both cases mentioned are straightforward in tackling intoxication as not a defense against the charge of vehicular manslaughter and driving under the influence of alcohol.

Other cases however are a little vague about the specific liability of the person who is intoxicated while committing a particular crime. Let us take the case wherein a defendant is charged with rape who is inebriated while allegedly committing the crime against another who is equally intoxicated. In this scenario, there are various other factors to be considered other than the Blood Alcohol Content or BAC of the defendant.

It is often much more difficult to establish the liability of the defendant in this case since one has to consider other elements such as how drunk was the defendant, was the victim injured or the circumstances involved in the alleged assault.

Christopher Garcia