Can alcohol impairment provide grounds for a criminal defense?

On Behalf of | Mar 20, 2024 | Criminal Law |

Violent criminal charges are among the most serious offenses prosecuted in Missouri. Assaults and homicides can lead to major consequences after a conviction and lasting social stigma due to a permanent criminal record. Those accused of criminal acts of violence sometimes defend against those charges by proving they weren’t the ones involved in an incident. Other times, there is a clear connection between a particular defendant and a violent crime. In those scenarios, defense strategies often focus on changing how the courts perceive the situation.

Some people may claim that they acted in self-defense. Others may try to claim that they lacked the criminal intent necessary to justify criminal charges. Alcohol frequently plays a role in situations that devolve into interpersonal violence. People who drink too much could easily end up in a fight. Could someone defend against violent criminal charges in Missouri by proving to the courts that they were under the influence of alcohol?

Voluntary intoxication doesn’t end criminal liability

There are some scenarios, such as moments of intense emotionality that undermine someone’s rational behavior, which could help someone fight pending criminal charges. The profound emotional reaction someone has to discovering an interpersonal betrayal, for example, might lead to claims of temporary insanity. A surprise reaction to a medication, a recent brain injury or even a legitimate fear for personal safety could also give rise to a potential defense strategy.

People might reasonably believe that alcohol was to blame for an incident that left someone injured or possibly dead. Alcohol disinhibits people and may increase their emotional reactions. Therefore, people are more likely to overreact to a situation while under the influence of alcohol.

Those consequences of drinking are well known. People who choose to consume alcoholic beverages accept the risks related to how alcohol affects human behavior. Someone typically cannot develop a defense strategy based on their voluntary intoxication at the time of a violent incident. That being said, involuntary intoxication, such as scenarios in which people drug someone else, could give someone an option for an affirmative defense strategy. There could also be other mitigating factors present in the situation that could increase someone’s chances of a successful defense at trial.

Ultimately, reviewing the state’s case and learning about state law with the assistance of a skilled legal team may help people better respond to violent criminal charges in Missouri in personalized and informed ways.