Dedicated Texas Criminal Defender

Can intoxication reduce someone’s culpability during a trial?

On Behalf of | Jul 25, 2023 | Evidence in Criminal Cases

Those accused of criminal acts in Texas have the right to present a defense during trial. Some defendants choose to challenge or reinterpret evidence, possibly by showing the police violated their rights during an investigation. Others recognize that the state has a strong case and will choose an affirmative defense because they can’t challenge or undermine the existing evidence. When mounting an affirmative defense, the goal is to prove that unusual circumstances made what would otherwise be a crime into a legal act.

Those who claim they acted in self-defense when facing homicide or assault charges use an affirmative defense strategy. Sometimes, people seek to undermine the idea that they had criminal intent as part of an affirmative defense strategy. Pleading insanity is an example of this tactic. Is chemical intoxication a way to prove someone did not have criminal intent or culpability for their actions?

Texas law has rules about intoxication defenses

On the surface, it seems logical to assume that someone under the influence of mind-altering drugs or alcohol would not be fully culpable for their actions while impaired. After all, contracts signed while inebriated often do not hold up in the Texas civil courts. However, the criminal code in Texas specifically addresses the idea of an intoxication defense as a form of affirmative defense to criminal charges. Someone who voluntarily consumes alcohol or drugs cannot use their chemical impairment as a means to reduce their culpability or deny criminal intent when facing charges.

The only scenario in which it may be possible to raise questions about someone’s criminal responsibility in relation to chemical impairment involves someone who was not aware of their intoxication. Ordering a mocktail but receiving a cocktail or having another partygoers spike someone’s drink with a drug would be among the very limited scenarios in which impairment could alter the state’s ability to successfully prosecute a defendant.

The good news is that while intoxication doesn’t automatically eliminate someone’s responsibility for their actions, it is often possible to mount a successful defense after reviewing the state’s evidence and learning more about the law. Understanding the limits of different defense strategies by speaking with an attorney can benefit those preparing to fight pending criminal charges at trial.