Available 24/7 Free Consultations
(617) 513-9444
Available 24/7 Free Consultations
(617) 513-9444
Request Free Consultation

Intoxication as a Defense in Criminal Cases

Posted on January 9, 2024 in

If you get arrested for allegedly committing a crime in Massachusetts, you could be facing serious consequences, such as jail time and a permanent criminal record. It is important to explore all of your potential criminal defense options, including involuntary or voluntary intoxication.

When Can Intoxication Be Used as a Defense in Massachusetts?

The availability and effectiveness of the intoxication defense in a criminal case will depend on the circumstances. The defendant’s criminal defense attorney in Concord must prove certain elements for this defense to apply. The first is generally that the intoxication was involuntary, meaning that the defendant was forced, threatened, coerced or deceived into consuming an intoxicating substance.

Being impaired by drugs or alcohol typically is not a defense against criminal charges in Massachusetts. However, there is an exception if the defendant was involuntarily intoxicated. This means that someone else forced drugs or alcohol on the defendant or tricked the defendant into consuming them.

The second element that generally must be shown is an altered mental status because of the intoxication. The defendant’s level of impairment must have been severe enough to result in a mental status that was incapacitated and could not understand the nature of his or her actions. The defense must demonstrate that the defendant’s involuntary intoxication prevented him or her from forming the level of intent that is required of the crime.

General Intent vs. Specific Intent

The success of the intoxication defense may depend on whether the defendant is being charged with a general intent or specific intent crime. A general intent crime is an offense committed without intent to achieve a specific result; the prosecution only needs to prove that the defendant intended to commit a prohibited act, not that he or she had intent to achieve a certain result.

A specific intent crime, on the other hand, must prove that the defendant had a specific purpose or intent behind a prohibited act. In other words, the defendant intended to achieve a specific outcome when committing the unlawful act, such as breaking and entering with specific intent to commit a theft or felony inside.

When Can Voluntary Intoxication Be Used as a Defense?

It is more difficult to successfully use the defense of voluntary intoxication than involuntary. As a rule, voluntary intoxication cannot be used as a defense to a general intent crime. If intoxication prevented the defendant from forming the intent necessary for a specific intent crime, however, it could be used as a defense in this scenario.

In most states, voluntary intoxication is an affirmative defense, meaning the defendant has the burden to prove that he or she lacked the necessary intent to commit the crime. It is more common to use the voluntary intoxication defense to reduce criminal charges based on decreased overall culpability for the crime rather than achieve case dismissal or acquittal.

Contact a Concord Criminal Defense Lawyer

Intoxication can be used as a defense to criminal charges in Massachusetts in certain circumstances, especially if you were involuntarily intoxicated at the time of the event. If you were under the influence of drugs or alcohol through no fault of your own, you may be able to avoid a criminal conviction. Contact the Concord criminal defense lawyers at Spring & Spring to discuss your specific case.