The Challenges Of Using Involuntary Intoxication As A Defense

Involuntary intoxication may sound like one of those "my dog ate my homework" type of excuses for driving under the influence, but it's a valid defense that could help you escape some or all the consequences of being slapped with a DUI. However, this defense can be challenging to use. Here are two issues you may encounter when trying to convince the court you were intoxicated against your will.

Proving You Didn't Imbibe Willingly

Possibly the hardest part of your case would be proving you consumed the drug or alcohol unwillingly. In some instances, this may be very easy. Foods made with marijuana may be indistinguishable from non-drugged foods. If the food is not marked or the person who made it doesn't notify you that it is laced with cannabis, you may have an easier time showing you didn't know or have reason to know you had ingested an intoxicating substance.

An example of this is when a Maryland student gave a teacher a brownie laced with cannabis without notifying her about that fact. She began feeling ill after eating it and was taken to the hospital. If that teacher had driven home, was pulled over, and cited for a DUI, she could deploy the involuntary intoxication defense and possibly get the case dismissed.

However, this example highlights another issue you may face along these same lines. Drugs and alcohol produce symptoms of intoxication. While the court may accept that you had ingested an intoxicating substance unwillingly, the prosecutor may point out you should have known you were under the influence based on the symptoms you exhibited after ingesting the drug or alcohol.

This can be tough to overcome. Even if you could prove you never had experience with the drug or alcohol beforehand and, thus, didn't immediately recognize you had taken it, the prosecutor may counter you should've at least realized you weren't in any condition to drive a vehicle. In this instance, you would have to show you were so intoxicated that you didn't understand the consequences of your actions.

Alternatively, you could show you didn't exhibit any noticeable symptoms that would have alerted you to the fact you had imbibed a problematic substance and was at risk of getting a DUI as a result. For example, the legal BAC limit in most states is .08. People who drink heavily often can easily consume enough alcohol to pass the legal limit without exhibiting symptoms of intoxication. If someone spiked the punch at an office party without you realizing it, you may be able to make this case and avoid a conviction.

Proving Unforseeability

Sometimes the involuntary intoxication is the result of consuming a prescription drug that produces unintended side effects. Ambien, a sleep aid, has been known to cause people to perform tasks while unconscious, such as driving and performing sex acts. Before this side effect became well known, people could successfully defend against criminal charges brought against them for unlawful actions they performed while under the influence of the drug.

This defense can be used with other medications that cause intoxication as an unintended side effect. However, you would need to show that you couldn't have foreseen the prescription drug would have that effect on you. This may involving proving your healthcare provider didn't notify you about the possible side effect and/or the drug manufacturer didn't notify the public about the consequences either. You may need to provide testimony from a medical expert about the medication's effect on you.

Involuntary intoxication can be a helpful defense against DUI charges. As you can see, there are some challenges you need to overcome to use it effectively. For more information about these issues or help with a DUI case, contact a criminal defense attorney from a law office like The Law Offices of Nathan A. Steimel.