Blog

Is There an Involuntary Intoxication Defense in Pennsylvania?

Posted by Joseph D. Lento | Feb 13, 2020 | 0 Comments

In our last blog post, we detailed the voluntary intoxication defense in Pennsylvania. While somewhat rare, that defense argues that a criminal defendant cannot be liable for a crime because they were too intoxicated to be able to form the level of intent necessary to commit it.

The voluntary intoxication defense, however, raises an important question: Is there also an involuntary intoxication defense to a crime?

There is, and it's much different. It's also quite rare but does come up in some cases of driving under the influence (DUI). It has also never been explicitly adopted in Pennsylvania.

How Can Intoxication Be Involuntary?

One of the biggest reasons why involuntary intoxication is a rare defense to a criminal charge is that people nearly always intend to drink alcohol or use drugs. The intoxicating effects are the point of drinking or taking a pill or smoking marijuana.

However, there are some circumstances where this is not the case, like:

  • Drinking something without knowing that it is alcoholic
  • An alcoholic drink that has been drugged or “roofied”
  • Drinking alcohol without being aware that the effects would be elevated because of a medication
  • Being forced to drink alcohol
  • Taking an intoxicating drug by accident or deceit, like taking a pill that someone said was aspirin but was actually ecstasy
  • Having an unknown medical condition that makes alcohol or a drug more intoxicating than normal
  • A prescription has unforeseeable and intoxicating side effects

The Legal Defense of Involuntary Intoxication

When something like this happens and the person under the influence of the alcohol or drugs ends up committing a crime, there's a strong argument that they should not be held responsible. Many states analogize involuntary intoxication to a temporary period of legal incapacity – people are rendered unable to make decisions on their own and cannot be held culpable for their actions.

In Pennsylvania, though, courts have waffled on whether to allow evidence of involuntary intoxication in a criminal trial. While they agree that it would be up to the defendant to prove, by a preponderance of the evidence, that they were involuntarily intoxicated at the time of the offense, judges have always found a way to avoid directly answering the issue in a case.

For example, in Commonwealth v. Smith, a woman was charged for drunk driving. During the trial, she raised the involuntary intoxicated defense and argued that her prescription patch for pain medication had made the beers she drank more potent. When she was convicted and appealed, the appellate court relied on the facts that she'd voluntarily drank alcohol and did not read the warnings on the patch.

Philadelphia Criminal Defense Lawyer Joseph D. Lento

The involuntary intoxication defense is a rare one to use, but it can be a strong defense option in the right circumstances.

Joseph D. Lento is a criminal defense lawyer who represents the accused in Philadelphia. Contact him online or call his law office at (215) 535-5353 if you have been accused of committing a crime and want to prove your innocence.

About the Author

Joseph D. Lento

"I pride myself on having heart and driving hard to get results!" Joseph D. Lento has more than a decade of experience fighting for the futures of his clients in criminal courtrooms in Philadelphia, the Pennsylvania counties, as well as New Jersey. He does not settle for the easiest outcome, and instead prioritizes his clients' needs and well-being.

Comments

There are no comments for this post. Be the first and Add your Comment below.

Leave a Comment

Contact Us Today!

Footer 2

Attorney Joseph D. Lento has more than a decade of experience successfully resolving clients' criminal charges in Philadelphia and the Pennsylvania counties. If you are having any uncertainties about what the future may hold for you or a loved one, contact the Lento Law Firm today! Criminal defense attorney Joseph D. Lento will go above and beyond the needs of any client, and will fight until the final bell rings.

This website was created only for general information purposes. It is not intended to be construed as legal advice for any situation. Only a direct consultation with a licensed Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York attorney can provide you with formal legal counsel based on the unique details surrounding your situation. The pages on this website may contain links and contact information for third party organizations – the Lento Law Firm does not necessarily endorse these organizations nor the materials contained on their website. In Pennsylvania, Attorney Joseph D. Lento represents clients throughout Pennsylvania's 67 counties, including, but not limited to Philadelphia, Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Montgomery, Berks, Lancaster, Lehigh, and Northampton County. In New Jersey, attorney Joseph D. Lento represents clients throughout New Jersey's 21 counties: Atlantic, Bergen, Burlington, Camden, Cape May, Cumberland, Essex, Gloucester, Hudson, Hunterdon, Mercer, Middlesex, Monmouth, Morris, Ocean, Passaic, Salem, Somerset, Sussex, Union, and Warren County, In New York, Attorney Joseph D. Lento represents clients throughout New York's 62 counties. Outside of Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York, unless attorney Joseph D. Lento is admitted pro hac vice if needed, his assistance may not constitute legal advice or the practice of law. The decision to hire an attorney in Philadelphia, the Pennsylvania counties, New Jersey, New York, or nationwide should not be made solely on the strength of an advertisement. We invite you to contact the Lento Law Firm directly to inquire about our specific qualifications and experience. Communicating with the Lento Law Firm by email, phone, or fax does not create an attorney-client relationship. The Lento Law Firm will serve as your official legal counsel upon a formal agreement from both parties. Any information sent to the Lento Law Firm before an attorney-client relationship is made is done on a non-confidential basis.

Menu