Martin & Kent, L.L.C. Martin & Kent, L.L.C.

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Involuntary intoxication as a legal defense

Illinois residents have likely seen countless films and television shows featuring characters who were acquitted in criminal trials due to temporary insanity, and they may wonder why intoxicated individuals rarely claim diminished capacity the reason for their actions. One factor is that such a strategy involves admitting guilt, and it could leave defense attorneys with few options if skeptical juries are unconvinced by these arguments. This type of strategy is also rare because the law only recognizes intoxication as a legitimate defense in very specific situations.

For a diminished capacity defense to be successful, attorneys must establish that the defendant could not tell right from wrong or were unable to control themselves when they committed an illegal act. While the intoxicating effects of drugs or alcohol may satisfy these requirements, they can only be used as a defense to criminal charges when the intoxication was involuntary. Those who become impaired willingly are unable to claim temporary insanity as a defense as they were likely aware of the outcome of drinking or using drugs.

Involuntary intoxication may satisfy the legal requirements of temporary insanity when the individual concerned was given intoxicating substances without their knowledge or were unaware of their intoxicating effects. Intoxication may also be considered involuntary if the individual concerned was under duress and only consumed drugs or alcohol because they were compelled to. A form of voluntary intoxication which is known as pathological intoxication occurs when an individual consumes small amounts of an intoxicating substance but has a disproportionately severe reaction.

Criminal defense attorneys may be reluctant to pursue a strategy that involves admitting guilt, but they may consider a diminished capacity defense when the evidence is clear and meets the requirements laid out in criminal law. Defense attorneys may also broach the subject of involuntary intoxication during plea negotiations with prosecutors.

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