Intoxication


Fundamentals of Criminal Law

Adam J. McKee, Ph.D.

Jack Brown, Ph.D.


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Because it interferes with the ability to make rational choices and thus limits culpability, intoxication can be a defense, but only if the intoxication is involuntary. Voluntary drunkenness is no defense.  Intoxication, then, is another defense that focuses on the defendant’s inability to form the requisite criminal intent. In general, intoxication can be based on the defendant’s use of alcohol, legal drugs, or illegal drugs. The Model Penal Code defines intoxication as “a disturbance of mental or physical capacities resulting from the introduction of substances into the body.” The intoxication defense can be perfect or imperfect, depending on the state.

A.C.A. § 5-2-207 Intoxication

(a) Intoxication that is not self-induced is an affirmative defense to a prosecution if at the time a person engages in the conduct charged to constitute the offense he lacks capacity to conform his conduct to the requirements of the law or to appreciate the criminality of his conduct.

(b) For the purposes of this section:

(1) “Intoxication” means a disturbance of mental or physical capacities resulting from the introduction of alcohol, drugs, or other substances into the body;

(2) “Self-induced intoxication” means intoxication caused by a substance which the actor knowingly introduces into his body, the tendency of which to cause intoxication he knows or ought to know.

For crimes where the mens rea element is satisfied by recklessness, voluntary intoxication rarely provides even an imperfect defense.  In many situations, the fact that the actor was intoxicated makes the offense more serious. Involuntary intoxication is more likely to provide a defense than voluntary intoxication. Generally, a defendant can claim involuntary intoxication if he or she ingested the drug or alcohol unknowingly or under force, duress, or fraud.  The Model Penal Code links involuntary intoxication to “substantial capacity,” making the underlying logic of the offense very similar to that of an insanity defense.

Modification History

File Created:  07/17/2018

Last Modified:  07/17/2018

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This work is licensed under an Open Educational Resource-Quality Master Source (OER-QMS) License.

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