Involuntary Intoxication as a DWI Defense

Driving under the influence (DWI) is a crime of general intent crime. In other words, that means the state does not have to prove that the defendant intended to drive under the influence, only that the defendant was in an intoxicated condition and that he intended to drive.

Many states recognize involuntary intoxication as a defense to a DWI charge.
Only involuntary intoxication sufficient to remove the mental capacity to distinguish between right and wrong in relation to the act of driving may excuse someone accused of a DWI offense; voluntary intoxication is not an excuse for a DWI offense.

The defense of involuntary intoxication is available to a person if, at the time of committing the offense, the person’s faculties were so impaired that as a result they were unable to understand the nature and quality of their acts or to distinguish between right and wrong with respect to their acts-in other words they either unable to know what they were doing or to judge that it was wrong.

Involuntary intoxication includes the medicinal use of drugs, including intoxication resulting from a physician’s prescription of an intoxicating dose. Intoxication may be considered involuntary if the defendant was forced to consume the intoxicant or deceived into taking it without knowing its nature, such as with “spiked” drinks. Intoxication may also be deemed involuntary if it results from a mistake as to the nature or character of the intoxicant or from taking something not known to be capable of producing intoxication.

The defense of involuntary intoxication may be used in a Utica DWI case if it involves a suspected DWI offender taking a prescribed medication where the suspected offender did not know and would not be expected to know that the medication would affect their normal faculties.

The defense has also been used in DWI cases in which offenders have been exposed to volatile liquids, either voluntarily (“glue sniffing”) or involuntarily (e.g. by exposure in work settings).

In the case of Commonwealth of Pa. v. Smith, the court held that varying circumstances make it difficult to formulate a comprehensive definition of the involuntary intoxication defense in a DWI case. However, the court stated that a key component of the defense is a lack of culpability on the part of the defendant in causing the intoxication. With this defense, the defendant is excused from being held liable because the intoxication affects their ability to tell right from wrong.

The defense of involuntary intoxication is usually not available in cases where the defendant knowingly takes more than the prescribed dosage of a medication or mixes a prescription medication with alcohol or another controlled substance. The defense of involuntary intoxication is a difficult one to prove because many judges believe it undermines the protection of the public from the danger of drunk drivers and stops enforcement of the laws against driving while intoxicated.

In another case, People v. Garcia, the court discussed the defense of involuntary intoxication. The court referred to the case of People v. Morton where the New York Appellate Division recognized the defense of involuntary intoxication in a case where the defendant had been taking prescription insulin. The New York court held that prescription drugs were recognized in the state as a cause of intoxication and that insulin reaction could produce a state of intoxication which could constitute a defense to a DWI charge.

The attorneys at the law firm of Nave DWI Defense Attorneys are experienced in handling DWI cases in New York. If you need a lawyer who can help you obtain the best possible outcome in your DWI case, call the law firm of Nave DWI Defense Attorneys.

The exclusive purpose of this article is educational and it is not intended as either legal advice or a general solution to any specific legal problem. Corporate offices for Nave DWI Defense Attorneys are located at 269 W. Jefferson St.; Syracuse, New York 13202; Telephone No.: (315) 473-0899. Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome. Attorney Advertising.

2015-04-06T18:13:06+00:00