Is being drunk a defense to a criminal act?

As a tourist, there may be times that you're not familiar with the laws of the locations you visit. That doesn't excuse you from breaking the law, but it can sometimes work in your defense. One thing that you shouldn't try to do is to explain your actions away by stating that you were drunk.

While there are many good ways to defend yourself, admitting that you were so intoxicated that you made a bad choice is not a great idea. There is only one exception to this rule, which is if you were not drinking and yet somehow became intoxicated. That may point to involuntary intoxication, which could be a solid defense for your case.

In most situations, there is an element of intent necessary to convict someone of a criminal act. An act isn't criminal if it happens accidentally. The problem with intoxication is that if you choose to become intoxicated, that could provide the prosecution with the "intent" needed to show you chose to make a bad decision even if your actions were accidental.

Of course, while voluntary intoxication is not a good defense, it can sometimes be used to mitigate the charges against you. For instance, instead of facing a murder charge after a fatal bar fight, you might face an involuntary manslaughter charge. These are distinct enough to make a significant difference in the penalties you'd face if convicted.

If you find yourself accused of a crime after a night of drinking, your attorney can help you understand your rights and the best possible defenses for your case. Remember to say as little as possible to the authorities until you have time to review your options.

Source: FindLaw Blotter, "'I Was Drunk' Is Not a Defense to a Crime," Deanne Katz, Esq., accessed July 21, 2017

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