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Voluntary Intoxication

How does voluntary intoxication factor into a criminal case?

The term "voluntary intoxication" is used to describe an intentional ingestion of drugs or alcohol that results in impairment. This is done with the knowledge and understanding that one's physical and mental capabilities will be impaired, which means that an altered mental state as a result of voluntary intoxication cannot be used as a defense to a general intent crime. However, in some cases, it may be used to dispute the accusation that the defendant had a criminal state of mind (i.e. mens rea).

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Understanding California Penal Code § 22

California Penal Code Section 22 very clearly describes when evidence of voluntary intoxication can and cannot be used during criminal proceedings. For example, § 22(a) states that a person's actions will not be considered any less criminal simply because they were in a state of voluntary intoxication. This form of evidence cannot be admitted to negate the capacity to form any mental state for the crime—including, but limited to, purpose, intent, knowledge, deliberation, malice aforethought, etc.

In § 22(b), it is states that evidence of involuntary intoxication will only be admissible in criminal proceedings if it used solely to establish that the defendant did not form a required specific intent, or when the defendant has been charged with murder—whether they premeditated, deliberated or harbored malice aforethought. Finally, § 22(c) explains that voluntary intoxication can be broadly defined as any voluntary ingestion, or means of ingestion, of liquor, drugs or substances.

If your charges involve a voluntary intoxication issue, we encourage you to consult an experienced criminal lawyer in Los Angeles. Contact us today!