Is “But” I was Drunk” a Defense for Committing a Crime?

  1. Criminal Disputes
  2. Is “But” I was Drunk” a Defense for Committing a Crime?

For many young people, their twenty-first birthday means more than just one more candle on their birthday cake. For those who choose to consume alcohol, or even just to spend time in spaces where others do, turning twenty-one means a whole new world of experiences. Turning twenty-one can mean a large variety of new beverage options or entry to drinking establishments previously inaccessible. However, with the right to consume alcohol comes the moral, and legal, responsibility to understand its effects.

It is well-known that alcohol diminishes your decision-making capabilities and lowers your inhibitions. Many people make less responsible and less rational decisions after drinking that they come to regret later—if they remember making them at all. These decisions may be of no consequence, and only matter in that they embarrass you a little, like taking a silly photo, or they can be something that changes your life forever—such as committing a crime.

It is important to understand the relationship between legal responsibility and intoxication. Intoxication is the physical and mental state that results from the consumption of alcohol or other substances. Voluntary intoxication is when you knowingly and willingly consume alcohol, drugs, or other mind-altering substances. In the state of North Carolina, voluntary intoxication is generally not a defense for committing a crime. However, voluntary intoxication can sometimes be an incomplete defense against some crimes. If you have been charged with committing a specific intent crime, which requires that you not only perform some criminal act but also that you had the mens rea—or state of mind—required to be guilty of the offense, your attorney may be able to argue that your intoxication, even if voluntary, made you incapable of forming the requisite mens rea. 

In general, courts are hesitant to excuse one’s criminal behavior because of voluntary intoxication. Allowing voluntary intoxication as a complete defense against all charges would open a door into a world of confusion and convenient, hard-to-prove excuses. Though it may be an argument available to you under certain circumstances, the easiest rule of thumb to live by is this: by choosing to consume intoxicating substances, you are accepting the risk that, under their influence, you might do something you would not otherwise and be held accountable for doing it.

Involuntary intoxication, on the other hand, generally is a defense. Involuntary intoxication occurs when someone unwillingly or unknowingly consumes some alcohol, drugs, or other intoxicating substance. Where the intoxication was not someone’s choice, it would be unfair for them to bear the consequences. Involuntary intoxication includes circumstances where the defendant was unaware of the nature of the item they were consuming, as well as where they knew but were forced to consume it against their will.

Regardless of the individual circumstances of your case, the attorneys at King Law Offices are fully equipped with legal expertise to help you evaluate all the options available to you. From defenses to pleas to different sentencing options, King Law Offices will support you through your criminal case. King Law Offices is a full-service law firm with an outstanding team of professionals who work diligently, creatively, and compassionately on behalf of our clients each day. If you have pending criminal charges, contact King Law at 888-748-KING (5464) for a consultation. We have offices located across western North Carolina and upstate South Carolina. We are here to serve you and to guide you as we navigate this journey together.

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