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  • Is Voluntary Intoxication a Defense to a Criminal Charge?

    The short answer is a resounding “no.” In 1999, the Florida Legislature passed Fla. Stat. 775.051 which eliminated voluntary intoxication as a defense to any offense proscribed by law. The only exception occurs when the intoxication occurs pursuant to a valid prescription issued by a person authorized by law to issue such a prescription.

    Of course, it is still a defense to a crime that a person could not form the necessary intent (or mens rea) for the particular crime due to involuntary intoxication. In other words, if a person became intoxicated because someone drugged their drink without their knowledge, their criminal conduct may be excused. However, if the alleged crime is a general intent crime, as opposed to a specific intent crime, then even involuntary intoxication will not be a defense.

    In Patrick v. State, 104 So. 3d 1046 (Fla. 2012)., the defendant introduced evidence of drug use and alcohol use prior to the crime of murder. The Court instructed the jury that involuntary intoxication was not a defense and the defendant objected to the instruction as an improper comment on the evidence.

    Intoxication could not be used to suggest that he lacked the necessary mental state to commit the crime. The defendant’s argument that intoxication could be used to suggest that the incident was an accident as opposed to a crime that occurred out of ill will is tantamount to an argument that voluntary intoxication negated the intent necessary to convict the defendant of second degree murder. As second degree murder is a general intent crime, voluntary intoxication is not a defense to the charge even without the effect of the statute.

    In his statement to police, which was played at trial, Patrick repeatedly mentioned how much he had drunk, how he had been “eating” pills, and that he was paranoid because of his intoxication. Although he alleges that he was not seeking a voluntary intoxication defense, the evidence presented could have led a jury to believe that premeditation didn’t exist due to his intoxication. As such, the Supreme Court held that the trial court did not err in instructing the jury on the current status of the law—that voluntary intoxication is not a defense.

    Call a Valrico Criminal Defense Attorney Today!

    When you or a loved one is facing a criminal charge, you need to know what defenses are and ar not available. Adam Bantner is a board certified criminal traial attorney in Valrico, FL and is trained to expertly handle your case. Call us today at 813.397.3965 to set up your free one-hour consultation.

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