While intoxication is never by itself an excuse or justification for a crime, it may be a relevant consideration in a case involving criminal charges. It is normally not a defense for intent, but according to Commonwealth v. Sama, 411 Mass. 293, may be a defense to whether the defendant knowingly acting a certain way.
This post will discuss a few frequently asked questions about intoxication with alcohol or drugs.
What are specific intent crimes?
Intoxication, or drunkenness on drugs, is never by itself an excuse or justification for a crime. However, evidence of intoxication may be relevant in determining whether the defendant had the criminal intent required for conviction of an offense.
The burden is on the Commonwealth to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant specifically intended to commit an offense. The defendant cannot be guilty of an offense without this proven intent.
Can I be acquitted if I do not have the specific intent to commit a crime?
Jurors may take into account any evidence of intoxication with liquor or on drugs in determining whether or not the Commonwealth has proved that the defendant had the specific necessary intent to commit an offense.
For example, sometimes a person may be so intoxicated with alcohol or drugs that he or she is not capable of having the required intent to commit the crime. In this scenario, the defendant would have to be found NOT GUILTY.
But note that in other cases, even if a person is intoxicated to some degree, he or she may still be able to form the specific necessary intent. In those cases, the person may be convicted, as intoxication is not an excuse for a crime when a defendant has the specific necessary intent.
Does the government have the burden of proving intoxication?
NO, the Commonwealth is NOT required to prove beyond a reasonable doubt the absence of intoxication.
What are general intent crimes?
The law takes the view that even if alcohol or drugs have to some extent blinded a person’s intellect and passions (i.e. an example of general intent), it is not an excuse for a crime, since a person brings it upon himself. A person who is intoxicated with liquor or on drugs has the same responsibility to obey the law as a person who is sober.
IF YOU OR A LOVED ONE HAVE BEEN CHARGED WITH A CRIME, AND YOU NEED AN EXPERIENCED CRIMINAL DEFENSE LAWYER WORKING ON YOUR SIDE TO PROTECT YOUR RIGHTS, PLEASE CONTACT CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY WILLIAM J. BARABINO.
CALL 781-393-5900 TO LEARN MORE ABOUT YOUR AVAILABLE DEFENSES.