Can You be Found Guilty if You Were Intoxicated at The Time?

Alcoholism is not a defence for criminal behaviour, but it may prevent someone from having the mental clarity enough to create the intent required by law to be found guilty of a particular crime. The law in this area is extremely complicated, and state-by-state norms vary. Intoxication as a defence to certain crimes is covered in general in this page.

It’s possible that demon rum, rather than the devil, was what drove you to do it. However, the type of intent required by the law to find the accused guilty of the crime charged determines whether or not the drunkenness defence will succeed.

Offences with “General Intent”

In many cases, the prosecution need merely demonstrate that the defendant had the “general intent” to commit the crime at hand. This entails demonstrating that the defendant wilfully did something that was against the law, while they may not have intended the results that came as a result. Normal defences to crimes requiring broad intent do not normally include intoxication.

For instance, an intoxicated person who accidently shoots another person with a gun at midnight on New Year’s Eve did not intend to do so; in fact, it’s possible that the shooter was unaware the victim was nearby. The killing, however, took place as a result of the inebriated shooter’s overall intent to break the law, as well as the actions that followed it.

A general intent offence is manslaughter, which includes unintentionally killing someone else without cause or malice.

Crimes with “Specific Intent”

The phrase “specific intent” refers to the desire to carry out a particular unlawful act. A felony requiring specific intent may have intoxication as a defence.

In states where there are different “degrees” of severity for crimes like murder, intoxication may be a defence to the most serious degree. If so, the accused could use her inebriation as a first-degree murder defence.

Consider a scenario in which a woman finds out that her partner is having an affair and visits a bar to ease her grief. After several drinks, she makes the decision to confront the couple and locates them in a hotel room. This might assist her in avoiding a first-degree murder prosecution.

DUI as a Line of Defence

Courts are now a little more open to the defence than they once were in those cases when they will consider it. But there is still debate over what really qualifies as involuntary drunkenness. As a result, each state has its own definition and guidelines for what constitutes involuntary drunkenness.

The present strategy and the Model Penal Code

Only a few states have fully enacted the model code. Any form of intoxication is a defence to a crime under the Model Penal Code if it takes the place of an element of the offence, such as the needed intent. According to the MPC, “pathological intoxication” may serve as the foundation for a defence of involuntary intoxication.

Aspects of The Defence of Intoxication Are Subjective

The majority of judges will evaluate a defendant’s drunkenness defence based on a variety of individual criteria. In one instance, a man killed his neighbor’s dog after spending the afternoon consuming at least five alcoholic beverages. The defendant claimed at trial that his level of intoxication prevented him from having the intention to injure the animal.

However, the judge discovered that the man had a high alcohol tolerance. Given this evidence, the judge dismissed the man’s claim of intoxication, concluding that he was probably not as drunk as he claimed to be when he shot the dog.

Momentary Sanity Brought on By Intoxication

A criminal defendant may demonstrate that he lacks considerable competence by meeting the following requirements. Recognise the illegality of his actions or adjust his behaviour to comply with the law.

The federal legal system differs slightly. The character and efficacy of his deeds, or their impropriety as a result of severe mental illness or defect, including intoxication.

Criminal Laws May Not Be Clearly Intent-Based

Despite the fact that such words appear to indicate a particular aim, courts have occasionally decided that the degree of intent conveyed by such terms may vary depending on the sort of crime.

First degree murder is under the category of felonies, which does not call for premeditation or even the intention to kill. As an illustration, consider an armed bank heist in which the perpetrator inadvertently kills a patron.


In summary, intoxication can be a complex and nuanced issue in criminal law. Whether or not it can be used as a valid defence depends on various factors, including the jurisdiction, the type of crime committed, and whether the intoxication was voluntary or involuntary. While intoxication can sometimes mitigate criminal liability, it is not a guaranteed defence and is generally less effective in cases involving specific intent crimes. Understanding the intricacies of intoxication as a defence is essential for anyone facing criminal charges under such circumstances.