The Defendant Did It But…Under The InfluenceCommitting a crime under the influence is, in fact, a legal defense that can be used in the State of California to defend the alleged actions of an individual during a specific situation. Sometimes, the mental state of a defendant is impaired severely due to a strong influence of alcohol or drugs. So severely that he or she actually may have been impaired enough to not understand what he or she was doing is illegal. When the defense of under the influence is used, the defendant is seeking to not be held accountable for his or her actions due to being too intoxicated to know his or her behavior was violating the law. It can be a difficult defense to utilize in court, however. Often, voluntary intoxication is seen as inexcusable in the State of California. The argument is that a person should realize alcohol and drugs can impact the ability to make sound choices. However, the defense of acting under the influence of alcohol or drugs can be presented, and beneficial, when the case involves the need for there to be “specific intent” for a conviction to result. The defendant may not have had “specific intent” to commit a crime, even when under the influence voluntarily, and this defense can be presented in court due to this fact.

When Intoxication Is Involuntary

Voluntary intoxication is when a person abuses alcohol or drugs knowingly and willingly. The person chooses to become under the influence of the alcohol or drugs. Involuntary intoxication, however, is when someone falls under the influence of alcohol or drugs without knowledge. The 1973 case of the People v. Heffington concluded that “unconsciousness due to involuntary intoxication is a complete defense to a criminal charge.” This means that a person found to have been involuntarily intoxicated – which means he or she became under the influence without choosing to be – cannot be found guilty of a crime that may have taken place while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

The key to the defense of involuntary intoxication is proving the person was severely intoxicated. When an individual is under the influence of alcohol or drugs, he or she may be considered to be unconscious. According to California’s Penal Code 26, If someone is unconscious, unknowingly, when a crime was committed, he or she cannot be found guilty of that crime. The defense of under the influence, due to involuntary intoxication, can be used in court and successful as long as the defendant was not intentionally intoxicated.

How Can Intoxication Be Involuntary, Though?

If the defense of involuntary intoxication is being used in court, the criminal defense attorney must show how the intoxication was done involuntarily. In California, involuntary intoxication commonly is when a person did not know at the time he or she was consuming drugs or alcohol or he or she was tricked into falling under the influence by another individual.For example, a person may have drank punch at a gathering that was spiked. He or she may have not known the punch contained liquor, however. This spiked punch may have caused a person to fall under the influence and act illegally, as a result. The good news is, according to California law, this person will not be held accountable for his or her actions.