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Is Involuntary Intoxication a Valid Defense for DUI?

Is Involuntary Intoxication a Valid Defense for DUI?

Posted By Posted By Parks & Braxton, PA || 18-Dec-2012

In the past, involuntary intoxication was considered a valid legal defense in Florida courts. Today, involuntary intoxication might not be considered an excuse for committing certain crimes – including drunk driving. The words "specific intent" is a legal term that requires a state of mind to accompany actions in order for them to be a crime. For example, common law larceny requires the perpetrator to commit he act or larceny with the intention of committing the crime. If the individual commits the act of larceny without intending, he/she may be able to escape a criminal conviction.

How does this idea related to drunk driving? Until 1999, Florida drivers were allowed to use specific intent to their advantage. If a driver was caught intoxicated while driving, he/she would not actually be considered guilty if the crime was an accident. For example, if a partygoer accidentally consumed alcohol from a punch bowl (without knowing that the drink contained alcohol), he/she may have been able to make a case for involuntary intoxication in court. Simply put, if the driver didn't intend on drinking, he/she could not be held accountable for the act of DUI.

Today, involuntary intoxication is no longer considered a valid legal defense in court. Florida Statute § 775.051 states that "voluntary intoxication resulting from the consumption, injection or other use of alcohol or other controlled substance as described in chapter 893 is not a defense to any offense proscribed by law." The statute goes on to say that the defendant may not use voluntary intoxication to demonstrate that he/she lacked specific intent to commit the crime. Additionally, the defendant may not demonstrate that he/she was insane when the crime was committed – unless the use of alcohol or another controlled substance was pursuant to a lawful prescription.

In short, Florida Statute § 775.051 abolished the defendant's right to use involuntary intoxication as a defense in court. However, the statute also contains an exception to the rule. According to the statute, the defendant may not use involuntary intoxication as a relevant defense unless he/she consumed, injected or used the controlled substance because of a lawful persecution – such as a prescription drug. This exception might apply if the defendant was accidentally under the influence of a prescription medication because he/she did not anticipate the effects of the drug. If the defendant was arrested, he/she might be able to plead involuntary intoxication.

Unfortunately, this defense is typically used in situations where the defendant pleads insanity – not intoxication. Thus, actually using the exception to Florida Statute § 775.051 may prove extremely difficult. Additionally, the exception will only apply when a certified practitioner prescribes the drug. In other words, the defendant may not plead involuntary intoxication or insanity if he/she abused the substance or used it without a valid prescription. Florida Statute § 893.02 indicates that a lawful prescription can only be given be given by a licensed physician, such as a doctor or dentist.

At Parks & Braxton, PA, we are wholeheartedly dedicated to helping our clients avoid criminal convictions. If you've been accused of drunk driving, you need a lawyer with the skill and experience to help you establish an aggressive and effective defense strategy in court. Our Fort Lauderdale DUI attorneys have more than 40 years of experience helping clients deal with serious legal matters. Let us put our understanding of DUI law to work for you. To learn more about DUI defense or Parks & Braxton, PA, contact our office today. The sooner we hear from you, the sooner a legal professional can give you the assistance you need.

Categories: DUI

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