| Read Time: 2 minutes | Criminal Defense

Learning that you are facing criminal charges in Florida can be scary and frustrating, especially when you do not have any recollection of the crime itself because you were intoxicated or otherwise impaired. If you are charged with a crime in Florida but you were under the influence of alcohol or drugs at the time the crime was committed, can you argue that your intoxication is a defense to the criminal charges? In other words, if you did commit the crime but did not know what you were doing due to your impairment, is that a valid defense strategy under Florida law?

Learning More Voluntary Intoxication as a Defense Under Florida Law

Generally speaking, in order to be guilty of a crime, you must have had intent to commit the crime (known in the law as mens rea). When an individual is so intoxicated that she or he could not possibly have had intent to commit a crime—even though she or he committed that crime—can that individual still face criminal charges? Can that individual argue that she has a diminished responsibility because she was so impaired that she could not have had the intent to commit the crime?

Florida law (Florida Statutes Section 775.051) deals specifically with voluntary intoxication as a defense to a criminal act. The statute clarifies that “voluntary intoxication resulting from the consumption, injection, or other use of alcohol or other controlled substance . . . is not a defense to any offense proscribed by law.” In other words, under Florida statutory law, a person who has been charged with a crime cannot use voluntary intoxication as a defense, even if she was so inebriated that she could not form intent to commit the crime. To be sure, the statute goes on to clarify that “evidence of a defendant’s voluntary intoxication is not admissible to show that the defendant lacked the specific intent to commit an offense and is not admissible to show that the defendant was insane at the time of the offense.”

To be clear, if a defendant voluntarily becomes intoxicated, she cannot use that intoxication as a defense to the crime, and she also cannot introduce evidence of her intoxication to prove that she did not have the requisite intent to commit the crime with which she has been charged. Moreover, the statute underscores that a defendant cannot use evidence of voluntary intoxication as part of an insanity defense, either.

Exceptions to the Rule, and When Intoxication is Not Voluntary

While most voluntary intoxication defenses will not work in Florida, there are some situations in which intoxication might be a defense to a criminal act in Florida. The statute specifically provides an exception when the defendant voluntarily took a lawful prescription drug that was prescribed to her, and the defendant became intoxicated unexpectedly. This defense may only be successful in cases where the defendant can prove that she was so intoxicated that she was unable to form intent—a key element of the crime.

What about involuntary intoxication? This is a different matter altogether. When a defendant became involuntarily intoxicated—such as when she consumed a spiked drink or another substance unknowingly—then that defendant can indeed assert an intoxication defense.

Contact a Florida Criminal Defense Lawyer

The matter of an intoxication defense is complicated, and it is important to seek help with your case from an experienced Florida criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. Contact Moses & Rooth to get started on your defense.

Author Photo

Andrew Moses

Andrew has been practicing criminal law his entire career. After graduating from law school he began working as an Assistant State Attorney prosecuting cases in Orange and Osceola Counties. During his time as an Assistant State Attorney, Andrew handled all types of cases ranging from misdemeanors to such serious felonies as drug trafficking and armed robbery. His experience as a prosecutor helped him gain perspective of the criminal justice system and how the government established its cases.

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