Intoxication per se in not a defense in criminal law. It comes into play when the defendant commits an act under the influence of: –
However, without doubt, depending on the level of intoxication, it can deprive the defendant of the ability to reason. A man who is intoxicated is in no position to make sound or reasonable judgement and hence it can deprive the defendant of the mens rea (mental element) necessary for a conviction.
It can be said with some degree of certainty that when the defendant commits an act, under the influence, while the actus reus may be there (physical element), the mens rea (mental element) may not be present.
The law has to strike a balance between convicting a defendant who does not have the mens rea or intention to commit a crime and protecting the general public from criminal acts.
If intoxication were a valid defense than anyone who wanted to commit a crime, would simply do so under the influence and when arrested would plead intoxication.
The are two types of intoxication: –
- Voluntary Intoxication (which is generally not recognized as a defense. The courts are reluctant to make allowances for a defendant who commits a crime after he or she has managed to get himself or herself intoxicated)
- Involuntary Intoxication (which may be a defense, especially if the defendant was a victim of a crime, for example in instances where the defendant’s drink was spiked as a result of which the defendant lost his or her ability to reason).
Copyright © 2018 by Dyarne Ward