Intoxication defence

Close Up Of Group Of Wine CorksThe intoxication defence is one of the more complicated defences. Ultimately, however, it boils down to two main types: voluntary intoxication and involuntary intoxication.

Voluntary intoxication in criminal law can be used as a defence against specific intent, in other words, that the defendant did not set out to break the law. But it cannot be used as a defence against general intent crimes, which do not require a willingness to break the law, just an unlawful act.

Involuntary intoxication in criminal law can be used as a defence against general intent. For example, if someone’s drink is spiked with alcohol or drugs they might not be held accountable for their actions afterwards.

The intoxication defence becomes especially tricky when the defendant may have been able to control their actions, but had no understanding of what their actions really meant. But one part of this defence is straightforward: it cannot be used for premeditated crimes. So a nervous sort who robs a bank but drinks a bottle of whisky beforehand for Dutch courage cannot claim intoxication as a defence – because he was already intending to commit the offence.

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