Involuntary Intoxication as a Defense in Criminal Law

Under Missouri law, being high or heavily drunk cannot be used as a defense for criminal charges. However, there is an exception when the defendant gets high without a fault of their own. In such a case, they have a right to involuntary intoxication defense.

Involuntary intoxication is a criminal defense on the basis that a defendant committed an unlawful act while under the influence of an intoxicating substance which was ingested without his or her knowledge. Because of the intoxicating substance, the defendant could not understand the nature of his actions or establish right from wrong.

Limited circumstances

Involuntary intoxication can occur when someone is forced to take a substance like alcohol or when their drink is spiked without their knowledge. If in turn, the person commits a crime, then an involuntary intoxication defense can be applicable. Unintended effects of legally prescribed medication can also count as involuntary intoxication.

For an involuntary intoxication defense to hold, a court has to been convinced that the level of intoxication was very high to a point the defendant would not recognize some facts that a sober person is aware of. Also, the defendant should prove that indeed, the actions were motivated by the intoxicating substance.

Conditions for involuntary intoxication defense

Under Missouri law, involuntary intoxication can excuse what normally would be regarded as a criminal act if;

  • The intoxication prevents the defendant from knowing what he or she is doing.
  • The defendant can’t tell what is wrong or right.
  • Leaves the defendant lacking the right state of mind to face conviction.

Specific intent crimes

If you are charged with a specific intent crime( where the defendant has a specific intent to commit a crime), you can use involuntary intoxication defense to show intoxication prevented you from forming the right intent. As a result, you may not have understood the nature of your actions. A good example of a specific intent crime is the crime of assault. In such cases, a defendant is required to have an intent to harm another person.

For example, Peter is in his house drinking Soda with a group of friends. One of his friends puts a drug into Peter’s drink without his knowledge, and Peter drinks it. After some few minutes, Peter gets violent and starts attacking his friends unknowingly. If Peter gets charged with assault, he has grounds for an involuntary intoxication defense. Peter can argue that he got violent and committed an assault because the intoxication prevented the formation of an intent to cause harm.

In addition to specific intent crimes, involuntary intoxication can be used as a defense to general intent crimes. In such crimes, the involuntary intoxication defense is argued similar to an insanity defense. The defendant must show that the intoxication prevented him or her from distinguishing right from wrong hence indulging in the criminal act.

Affirmative defenses

Involuntary intoxication is considered an affirmative defense. This is because the defendant argues that while it is true the crime happened, circumstances exist that prevent criminal charges. As a result, the charges can either be dropped or reduced.

Involuntary intoxication is regarded as a complete defense to criminal charges because if the defendant is proven not guilty, the charges can be dismissed. Usually, in these type of cases, it is the task of a defendant to prove the innocence of the charges by a preponderance of the evidence. This is different from other criminal cases, where it is the task of the prosecutor to prove the defendant is guilty.

If you are charged for committing criminal action after being intoxicated involuntarily in Missouri, you need an experienced lawyer to represent you. A good lawyer will come up with an involuntarily intoxicated defense to prove your innocence and get the charges dismissed.

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