Alcohol or Drug Intoxication Might Be a Defense, But Not Necessarily

Involuntary intoxication would be a defense if consuming alcohol rendered the defendant insane or unable to form a mental intent.

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Voluntary Intoxication as a Defense in Michigan

Michigan has taken a firm position that a person rendered insane due to voluntarily consuming alcohol or drugs may not use intoxication as a legal defense. For example, suppose a person goes to a party and consumes a quantity of alcohol and drugs sufficient to render them insane, and they commit a crime, like sexual assault. In that case, intoxication is not a defense against criminal charges. On the other hand, if someone was drugged or unwittingly given an intoxicating substance, they can use intoxication to defend against criminal charges.

Involuntary Intoxication is a Viable Defense to Felony and Misdemeanor Charges

A person is not guilty of a crime if they were involuntarily intoxicated and that intoxication rendered them legally insane or unable to form the intent required to commit a crime. There are various ways a person can be involuntarily intoxicated. For example, if a woman is having a drink at a bar and another individual sneaks a drug into her drink that causes her to be intoxicated to the point that she cannot form the intent to commit a crime, she would not be guilty if she broke the law.

Prescription drugs can also cause involuntary intoxication. For example, assume a man has taken a particular medication for years but develops a new medical condition. His doctor prescribes him another medication. The interaction of drugs causes an unexpected but significant impairment when he takes both medicines simultaneously. Even though he took the medications voluntarily, he would not be guilty of a crime committed while under that impairment if he was rendered legally insane or unable to form a criminal intent.

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An Exception to the Rule – Chronic Intoxication

A person can become legally insane and thus not guilty of a crime due to chronic abuse of drugs or alcohol. If long-term abuse of drugs or alcohol deteriorates someone’s mental condition such that they cannot form a criminal intent, that person would have a lawful insanity defense at trial.

Mental Illness Combined with Drugs and Alcohol as a Defense to Criminal Charges

Individuals who have mental illness may also abuse or overuse drugs and alcohol. Sometimes, a person might try to self-medicate by using an intoxicant, depressant, or stimulant. If a mentally ill person and impaired due to voluntary consumption of drugs or alcohol commits a crime, insanity might be a lawful defense under certain circumstances. If a jury found that the mental illness, separate from the drug or alcohol consumption, caused the person to be insane, they would have to find the defendant not guilty. So long as the jury finds that the defendant was mentally ill, they can lawfully consider the insanity defense.

A person is legally insane if, as a result of mental illness or intellectual disability, he is incapable of understanding the wrongfulness of his conduct or conform his conduct to the requirements of the law. The defense must prove by a preponderance of the evidence that they were legally insane at the time of the crime for him to be found not guilty because of insanity.

A mental illness is a substantial disorder of thought or mood that (1) significantly impairs judgment, behavior, (2) capacity to recognize reality, or (3) cope with life’s ordinary demands. A person has an intellectual disability if he has significantly subaverage intellectual functioning that appeared before the defendant was 18 years old and impaired two or more of his adaptive skills.

An expert witness is almost always required to substantiate a defendant’s insanity defense. An expert is necessary if insanity is based on involuntary intoxication and used as a defense against criminal charges.

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Criminal Defense Attorneys Who Are Successful in Finding a Lawful Defense

Few criminal defense trial lawyers in Michigan have vast experience dealing with mental illness, intellectual disability, traumatic brain injuries, and severe intoxication as a defense. The attorneys with LEWIS & DICKSTEIN, P.L.L.C. have decades of experience working with clients and establishing lawful, credible, and winning defenses. If you want a lawyer who will faithfully and vigorously defend you and do everything reasonably possible to obtain the best possible result in your case, you want the Defense Team at LEWIS & DICKSTEIN, P.L.L.C. by your side. We will find a way to help you.

Call us today at (248) 263-6800 for a free consultation or complete an online Request for Assistance Form. We will contact you promptly and find a way to help you.

We will find a way to help you and, most importantly,
we are not afraid to win!

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