When charged with a crime, most people will attempt to think up any excuse for their criminal behavior.  A popular defense is that of being intoxicated (whether by alcohol or drugs), however a court will only entertain this type of defense if the defendant can show that they were involuntarily intoxicated.  For example, if a person was forced to drink large amounts of alcohol at gun point and then told to rob a bank, the defendant could argue that they were under duress when robbing the bank.

What About Alcoholism Or Narcotics Addiction?

Assuming that your state allows a person who is involuntarily intoxicated to escape some criminal liability; what happens to those who are chronic alcoholics or drug users?  Theoretically, one could argue that even after a single sip of alcohol, it is beyond the control of the person to stop drinking (since they would argue they have a physical compulsion).  However, courts currently have not agreed with the idea that an addict becomes involuntarily intoxicated.  It’s difficult to convince a court that the defendant literally had no free choice but to take the first fix or drink.  Additionally, courts tend to discourage any type of anti-social behavior (being a drug addict is anti-social).

Some defendants claim that they robbed or burgled a person or place because their addiction required them to gain funds to feed their disease.  If they did not steal money or property, they would go through withdrawal symptoms which would cause them extreme suffering.  However, to date, courts have not been sympathetic to this defense as well.   This was articulated in U.S. v Moore in which a heroin addict tried to rob a bank to pay for his heroin addiction.  However, the court ruled that the defendant’s addiction, and loss of control, was a self-induced disease and therefore not an excuse.

What If You Are Given A Drug And Don’t Know It?

If you are out at night and someone were to slip something in your drink, you may be able to escape some criminal liability.  The one caveat to this excuse is that the mistake about the drug had to be reasonable.  For example, if you are out one night and a friend gives you a small tablet, you ask what it is and are told it is a breath mint and without thinking you take the breath mint.  However, the tablet was actually a cocaine tablet, you could probably escape criminal liability.

The only problem is that the person has to not really know what they are taking.  Otherwise every drug user would use the excuse that they did not know what they are taking.  This defense is often used when someone slips a drug into a person’s drink.