Is intoxication a valid legal defense? This question has been debated for a very long time. It is a common belief that people should be punished for their actions, no matter what state they are in when they commit the crime.
However, others believe there are times where it is not entirely the person’s fault due to factors such as the influence of alcohol or drugs. Many factors must be taken into consideration before determining if a person is guilty or not, including their state at the time of the crime and if they were coerced into doing so.
What is intoxication?
Intoxication is defined as the impairment of higher mental functions by drugs or alcohol. It affects an individual’s ability to think and can result in behavioral changes, such as aggression and impulse control.
The level of intoxication depends on the amount drugs or alcohol ingested, whether the individual has taken the drug in the past and how much, and other factors like weight and sex.
How drugs and alcohol affect people
Alcohol is a depressant that slows down brain functions. It makes people feel more relaxed, less inhibited, exaggerates emotions, and impairs judgement.
Some of the chemicals that are found in alcohol include acetaldehyde, methanol, ethanol , acetic acid, and fatty acids. These chemicals are absorbed into the bloodstream, travel through the body to reach the brain, then get metabolized (or broken down) by enzymes that are produced naturally. When someone ingests alcohol it enters the bloodstream and goes to work on the brain almost immediately.
Certain drugs are stimulants which speed up brain functions and make people feel more confident, excited, and alert. Although stimulants might increase a person’s energy, they can decrease their inhibitions as well as cause irritation or paranoia.
There are also other drugs that have effects similar to both alcohol and stimulants. Some common examples of these type of substances include GHB, Rohypnol, and ketamine.
Both alcohol and drugs can cause neurons (brain cells) to release serotonin. Although this is a natural response that happens in the brain when someone uses or ingests chemicals, it can have negative effects on the body.
For example, after ingestion of a particular drug, a person’s dopamine levels increase gradually, and then rapidly drop as the drug wears off. If someone uses a particular drug or chemical for a long amount of time, the brain cells that produce serotonin to send messages between neurons may start decreasing in number. When this happens, people go through drug withdrawal symptoms which can include, but are not limited to, irritability, vomiting, and increased anxiety.
In general, someone who is intoxicated will have slurred speech, trouble walking or standing up straight, decreased motor coordination which may result in poor decision making.
Is intoxication a valid legal defense?
It is generally accepted in the field of criminal law that one can be responsible for their actions while intoxicated. Intoxication however does not give someone an automatic pass based on the fact that they were drunk or high at the time of committing a crime.
Intoxication might be used as a reason to reduce a client’s sentence, but it can easily work against them. For example, someone who may have been charged with theft or arson while under the influence, might try to use intoxication to get a lighter punishment. However, a court could easily see this as further negligence and give a harsher sentence.
It’s also important to remember that intent is what’s necessary in order to be found guilty of committing a crime. Someone who is intoxicated can still form intent and commit a crime while under the influence.
For instance, if someone were charged with murder and claimed they killed their victim due to being intoxicated, then this would not be a valid defense because there are no circumstances in which killing another person is acceptable. If there’s enough evidence to suggest the individual had the intent to kill someone, regardless of intoxication, they can receive a harsh punishment.
If the intent wasn’t clear, then intoxication can be used to get a lighter sentence, however this is something the court might decide after evaluating the case.
Being intoxicated doesn’t automatically mean someone can’t be found guilty of committing a crime. If there’s enough evidence that someone committed an act while under the influence, no matter what substances were involved, they could still be found guilty of their crime.
The only way the defense can work is if someone was so intoxicated that they had no memory of committing the act, or were not aware they were doing it. This however rarely works because intoxication doesn’t eliminate intent.
Intoxication might be used to reduce a person’s sentence or as a reason to convince the court or jury to show leniency. However, it doesn’t change the fact that someone committing a crime still has intent and will likely face consequences for their actions.
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