Criminal Defense & Social Security Disability Law

Can intoxication at the time of an assault help your defense?

Assault and battery charges in Virginia could lead to jail time and fines, even if the other person didn’t suffer permanent injuries. Pleading guilty to such charges could be a major mistake, even if it does help you avoid court.

A conviction might potentially affect your employment or even your professional licensing if you work in a regulated career. Fighting back against allegations that you were physically violent can protect your reputation and your profession. If you decide that you want to go to court to defend yourself, you need to develop a viable strategy based on the evidence the state has gathered to prove its case against you.

Could your intoxication at the time of the alleged assault provide you with grounds for an affirmative defense?

How an affirmative defense works

There are circumstances in which someone engages in a behavior that is frequently illegal but they maintain that they had a lawful justification for such behavior. Two of the most common affirmative defenses involved claims of self-defense or insanity. The grounds that allow for self-defense claims are obvious, but insanity or incompetence claims are more complex.

If someone does not have the cognitive capacity to form criminal intent at the time that they broke the law, they may not be subject to prosecution for those actions. Some individuals will want to claim that their alcohol intoxication or voluntary drug use prior to a violent incident might be grounds for an affirmative defense. The assertion is that their intoxication means that they did not have the capacity for criminal intent.

However, Virginia has very clear rules on an affirmative defense related to insanity. There is also established precedent affirming that voluntary intoxication, including intoxication that results from using prescribed medication, is not a defense against criminal charges in the Virginia courts. The only exceptions to that standard are when someone was drugged without their knowledge or when a doctor makes a dosing error that leaves someone far more incapacitated than they would be with the appropriate dose.

While you cannot use the fact that you had too much to drink as the basis for your defense strategy, there are certainly other options available. Looking into the evidence the state has against you can be a starting point for developing your defense against assault and battery charges.

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