R. Todd Bennett, P.C.
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Using alcohol consumption or drug use as a criminal defense

Texas residents may wonder why individuals accused of crimes committed while under the influence rarely claim diminished capacity as a defense. While drinking or taking drugs may sometimes make it difficult for individuals to resist their impulses or tell right from wrong, temporary insanity caused by drugs or alcohol will only be recognized by the law in a handful of very specific circumstances.

Voluntary intoxication cannot generally be used as a defense by those facing criminal charges, so defendants who wish to pursue a diminished capacity strategy must show that other factors were at play. Intoxication may be viewed as involuntary if the person either consumed an intoxicating substance unknowingly or underestimated the intoxicating effect that it would have. A temporary insanity defense may also be entertained in cases involving individuals who were forced to drink or take drugs. However, the evidence supporting such claims will likely be scrutinized closely by prosecutors.

Another form of involuntary intoxication, which is known as pathological intoxication, occurs when an underlying medical condition that the defendant is suffering from causes alcohol or drugs to have far more pronounced effects. However, claims of pathological intoxication may be rejected if prosecutors can establish that the medical condition involved was known to the defendant and its effects understood.

Criminal defense attorneys may be reluctant to pursue courtroom strategies that involve admitting guilt. While temporary insanity may be a complete criminal defense, attorneys are left with few options when such claims are rejected by disbelieving juries. Attorneys considering such a defense will likely only move forward after establishing that the evidence sporting a claim of involuntary intoxication is strong enough to withstand the efforts of prosecutors to undermine it and persuasive enough to convince skeptical jury members.

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