Intoxication as a Defense in Texas | Affirmative Defense

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Intoxication as a Defense in Texas

Is intoxication a defense to a criminal case in Texas?

For purposes of whether or not intoxication can be a defense to a crime in Texas, let’s start with what Texas defines intoxication in regards to the defense. Penal Code Section 8.04(d) defines intoxication as the disturbance of mental or physical capacity resulting from the introduction of any substance into the body. That is a fairly broad definition. Yet, intoxication is not an easy defense to raise.

Voluntary Intoxication as a Defense

First and foremost, voluntary intoxication is not a defense at the guilt-innocence phase of a trial. See Penal Code Section 8.04(a). This means that if a person makes a decision to drink or consume any other intoxicating substance, that person cannot later claim they could not form the requisite intent to commit a crime. It is important to notice that it does not require that the person foresee how intoxicated they would become.

Involuntary Intoxication as a Defense

There are situations, however, where a person might be intoxicated without doing so voluntarily. Involuntary intoxication can be used as a defense with the accused exercised no independent judgment or volition in taking the intoxicant and as a result of his severe mental defect caused by intoxication the accused did not know that his conduct was wrong or was incapable of conforming his conduct to the requirements of the law. See Torres v. State, 585 S.W.2d 746, 749 (Tex. Crim. App. 1979), Mendenhall v. State, 77 S.W.3d 815, 818 (Tex. Crim. App. 2002).

Involuntary intoxication might come up in three scenarios. First, if the accused was unaware of ingesting the intoxicant; second where force or duress is used to force ingestion of the intoxicant; or finally involuntary intoxication by prescription. Involuntary intoxication by prescription medication occurs only if the individual had no knowledge of possible intoxicating side effects of the drug, since independent judgment is exercised in taking the drug as medicine, not as an intoxicant. Mendenhall at 565.

Notice that involuntary intoxication is a defense that negates the mental state required for an offense. As a result, offenses that do not require a culpable mental state, such as driving while intoxicated, will most likely not be able to prevail on an involuntary intoxication defense.

Temporary Insanity Due to Intoxication

Temporary insanity due to intoxication is an affirmative defense that can be raised in the punishment phase of a trial. As an affirmative defense, it is contingent on the defense to establish the accused was intoxicated and that the intoxication rendered the accused temporarily insane. See Arnold v. State, 742 S.W.2d 10, 14 (Tex.Crim.App. 1987) Since this can only be raised at the punishment phase, this is generally seen as mitigation evidence. It is unique though because once the affirmative defense is raised, the judge is to instruct to jury on voluntary intoxication as a mitigating issue.

Penal Code: § 8.04. Intoxication

(a) Voluntary intoxication does not constitute a defense to the commission of crime.
(b) Evidence of temporary insanity caused by intoxication may be introduced by the actor in mitigation of the penalty attached to the offense for which he is being tried.
(c) When temporary insanity is relied upon as a defense and the evidence tends to show that such insanity was caused by intoxication, the court shall charge the jury in accordance with the provisions of this section.
(d) For purposes of this section “intoxication” means disturbance of mental or physical capacity resulting from the introduction of any substance into the body.

If you or a loved on has been charged with a criminal offense where you believe intoxication might be an issue, contact the Fort Worth criminal defense attorneys at Varghese Summersett at (817) 203-2220.

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