Learning that you’re facing criminal charges in Florida can be frightening, especially if you were intoxicated or otherwise impaired and have no recollection of the crime itself. Fortunately, it’s a longstanding legal principle in Florida that someone shouldn’t be guilty of committing a crime if they weren’t conscious of their actions. In situations where involuntary intoxication rendered a person unable to control their movements and whereabouts, they may have a valid legal defense for whatever conduct they may have committed while unconscious.
The involuntary intoxication defense can emerge under a number of circumstances in Florida when a person is exposed to a controlled or intoxicating substance without their knowledge or consent. This predominantly applies when you take a lawful prescription drug that was prescribed to you and you unexpectedly become intoxicated. This could also pertain if, for instance, you accidentally and unknowingly drank spiked punch and subsequently caused a scene in public or blocked a public byway.
What Is Involuntary Intoxication and When Can It Be Used as a Valid Legal Defense?
Generally speaking, in order to be guilty of a crime, you must have had the intent to commit the crime. When an individual is so intoxicated that they couldn’t possibly have had the intent to commit a crime—even if they committed the wrongdoing—can they still face criminal charges?
Involuntary intoxication may be used as a defense to specific intent crimes in which you can establish that you were impaired to a point where you couldn’t form the specific intent to commit the offense or for all crimes where you can establish that you were legally insane at the time of the offense due to a prescribed medication. This defense may also apply in first-degree murder cases where, by virtue of involuntary intoxication, the accused is incapable of forming a premeditated design to kill.
In general, the involuntary intoxication defense can arise in a number of circumstances in Florida when a person is exposed to an intoxicating substance without their consent or knowledge. This defense may apply under the following circumstances:
- The defendant was legally prescribed a controlled substance by a practitioner
- The defendant used, injected, or consumed the controlled substance as it was directed and prescribed by the practitioner
- The defendant was so intoxicated as a result of taking the controlled substance that they couldn’t form the intent to carry out the act at the time of the offense
The defense may also apply under the following circumstances:
- The defendant, without any fault of their own, knowingly or unknowingly ingested an intoxicating substance because of force, fraud, coercion, or trickery
- As a result, the defendant was so intoxicated that they couldn’t form the intent to carry out the act at the time of the offense
It’s important to note that intoxication that merely arouses passions, diminishes perceptions, releases inhibitions, or clouds reason and judgment doesn’t excuse the commission of the crime. In order to use involuntary intoxication as a defense, you must have been incapable of forming a mental state that establishes intent.
Can Voluntary Intoxication Be Used as a Valid Legal Defense?
The short answer is no, voluntary intoxication isn’t a defense to a criminal charge in Florida. That is, any willful consumption, injection, or other use of controlled substances that the defendant knew would cause intoxication. For instance, if you choose to drink alcohol at a party and become inebriated, intoxication can’t be used to defend any subsequent crime.
Any evidence of a defendant’s voluntary intoxication is inadmissible to demonstrate their lack of specific intent or demonstrate that the defendant was “legally insane” during the commission of the criminal offense. The exception to this rule, as stated, comes in the form of prescription medication. Simply put, if you became unexpectedly intoxicated from your medication, even if you took it voluntarily, you might be able to assert a legitimate defense based on the unexpected intoxication.
Contact an Experienced West Palm Beach Defense Attorney
If you’ve been charged with a crime and you believe you were involuntarily intoxicated during the commission of the purported wrongdoing, you may be able to assert an involuntary intoxication defense. For legal assistance, look no further than The Law Office of Gabriel & Gabriel. By seeking the help of an attorney, you may be better equipped with the knowledge and understanding of possible defense strategies, what you can expect at trial, and any other questions that you may have.
Criminal Defense Attorney Brian Gabriel has served the community of West Palm Beach and surrounding areas for more than 30 years. He understands the complexities that are often involved in these cases and can help protect your rights. Call (561) 622-5575 or complete a contact form for a free consultation.