Is Intoxication a Valid Criminal Defense in Utah?

Most adults of the legal drinking age know what it feels like to have too much to drink. When someone commits a crime while intoxicated, they may or may not have a defense based on their intoxication.

Intoxication can be used as a valid defense in some criminal cases. In other cases, it does not constitute a defense at all. Even when intoxication is a valid defense, it is not always the strongest defense. Voluntary intoxication is rarely a valid defense to criminal charges unless the charges require s specific mental state that could not have existed while the defendant was intoxicated. Involuntary intoxication is a much more successful defense strategy and may apply in more cases. You can use an intoxication defense when it negates the mens rea requirement of your charges. Even then, there is no guarantee that your defense will be successful.

If you were charged with a crime while intoxicated, you might have a defense based on your intoxicated state. Our Salt Lake City criminal defense attorneys can help you determine how to approach your defense. For a free case review, call Overson & Bugden at (801) 758-2287.

Voluntary Intoxication as a Defense to Criminal Charges in Utah

Voluntary intoxication occurs when a person knowingly and willingly consumes something intoxicating or mind-altering. This is often alcohol but might also include drugs or other substances, legal or otherwise. People sometimes make huge mistakes while intoxicated and end up with criminal charges. People often argue they should not be held responsible for things that happened while intoxicated, but voluntary intoxication is rarely a valid defense.

Utah Code § 76-2-306, voluntary intoxication is generally not a valid defense to criminal charges. The only way you can defend yourself with this kind of defense is if the intoxication negates the mental state required as one of the elements of the alleged offense. Voluntary intoxication is never a defense to sexual offenses, though. Our Murray criminal defense lawyers can review your charges to determine if you can use a voluntary intoxication defense.

Most cases where voluntary intoxication is a valid defense involve crimes that require specific intent from the defendant. For example, robbery requires the specific to take the property of another by force. Defendants must know what they are doing and be aware that their actions are criminal when the offense occurs. If the defendant was so intoxicated that they could not form this specific intent to commit the crime, they might use voluntary intoxication as a defense.

Involuntary Intoxication as a Criminal Defense in Utah

Involuntary intoxication can also be used as a valid defense. However, involuntary intoxication may apply in more cases than voluntary intoxication defenses. Involuntary intoxication might arise if a defendant was intoxicated because they unknowingly ingested an intoxicating substance. For example, if you were offered a brownie at a party that you did not realize contained marijuana, you are involuntarily intoxicated. Alternatively, our Utah criminal defense lawyers can use this defense if someone forced or coerced you to consume alcohol, drugs, or other intoxicating substances.

Just like voluntary intoxication, involuntary intoxication may be used as a defense to crimes requiring specific intent. Not only that, but involuntary intoxication might also be effective in fighting other kinds of charges.

For example, suppose you got in your car to go home after being tricked into eating a marijuana brownie. Next, suppose that you became intoxicated and disoriented while behind the wheel. In that case, you could defend yourself against DUI charges, even though DUI does not require specific intent, because you did not voluntarily consume the marijuana.

How and When to Use Intoxication as a Criminal Defense in Utah

Our Layton criminal defense attorneys can use voluntary intoxication defenses for criminal charges that require the prosecution to show you had specific intent. As discussed earlier, specific intent usually requires that the defendant intentionally committed an act and meant to cause the result of that act. If someone is heavily intoxicated, they are not in the right state of mind to form this requisite intent.

Involuntary intoxication may be used as a defense against specific and general intent crimes. General intent does not require defendants to intend to commit the crime or harm anyone. Instead, general intent might involve recklessness or negligence. General intent crimes often involve criminal acts that the defendant did not intend to do but should have seen coming or otherwise known better.

Intoxication, voluntary or involuntary, cannot be used to defend against strict liability offenses. Strict liability offenses may be charged even when a person has no criminal intent. For example, sexual intercourse with someone under 18 or the age of consent is a strict liability offense. This means even if you believed the victim was 18, you are still criminally responsible.

Is Intoxication a Strong Defense to Criminal Charges in Utah?

Intoxication defenses are not always the strongest defense, but it depends on the specific circumstances of your case. Voluntary intoxication is a somewhat weak defense. Courts, prosecutors, and jurors are less lenient and understanding when a person becomes intoxicated by choice before committing a crime. However, voluntary intoxication might help you avoid penalties for serious strict liability offenses, like robbery. In many cases, the charges are not completely dropped but might be downgraded to a lesser offense that does not involve strict liability.

Involuntary intoxication tends to be a stronger defense because it applies to more criminal charges, and there is less blame on the defendant. In many cases, the defendant is a victim of a crime because they have been unknowingly drugged. Our Lehi criminal defense attorneys can help you defend yourself if you were intoxicated.

Call Our Utah Criminal Defense Lawyers for a Free Assessment of Your Case

If you have been charged with a crime but were intoxicated when the offense allegedly took place, our Provo criminal defense lawyers can help you figure out the best defense. Call Overson & Bugden at (801) 758-2287 for a case evaluation free of charge.