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Involuntary Intoxication versus Voluntary Intoxication as a Defense in Florida

As a practicing criminal defense lawyer, clients who are charged with crimes walk into the office and many times tell me that they were “drunk” or “high” when they committed the crime. In Florida, under Fl. Stat. 775.051, voluntary intoxication resulting from the consumption, injection, or other use of alcohol or other controlled substance as described in chapter 893, is not a defense to any offense proscribed by law. 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, except when the consumption, injection, or use of a controlled substance under chapter 893 was pursuant to a lawful prescription issued to the defendant by a practitioner as defined in 893.

So in Florida, if the defendant voluntarily consumes alcohol or illegal drugs and then commits a crime, the accused may not rely on the alcohol or drug use as a defense in committing the criminal act. But what if the accused took a prescription drug like Xanax, Oxycodone, Ambien, or any other prescribed narcotic or over the counter medication and they became intoxicated or their judgment became impaired, which lead to the commission of a crime? Can the intoxication of the accused who voluntarily takes prescription medication use their intoxication or impairment as a defense? The answer is yes. The defense of “involuntary intoxication” from voluntarily taking a prescription drug is however, an affirmative defense and must be properly pled to accomplish the intended result of “not guilty.”

Evidence of the defendant’s prescription medications and their effect on his or her mental health, would be admissible in support of  the affirmative defense of involuntary intoxication in trial for first-degree murder with a firearm and armed burglary of a dwelling with assault or battery, assuming that defendant could show that medications were properly prescribed and taken as prescribed, where defendant proffered testimony of his treating physician, who prescribed two antidepressants, and a psychiatrist, who testified that defendant suffered from major depression and did not have ability to form intent to commit a specific-intent crime. See Lucherine v. State, 932 So. 2d 521 (DCA 4th 2006).

In Florida, the defendant must show that he or she was taking the medication whether prescribed or over the counter in the prescribed amounts and was not abusing the drugs. The courts have reasoned that a patient is entitled to assume that an intoxicating dose would not be prescribed or administered by a physician, where intoxication results from medicine which has been prescribed and taken as prescribed or administered by a physician, such intoxication is generally considered involuntary. So the Florida courts have held that if a defendant takes a prescription drug or an over the counter medication that leads to diminished capacity or mental impairment, those facts can be pled as an affirmative defense to any specific intent crime, because the effect on the defendant is in fact involuntary intoxication which diminishes the sense of thinking or mens rea.

Palm Beach Criminal Defense Attorney, Andrew D. Stine, is a criminal trial lawyer who has successfully used the affirmative defenses on behalf of his client’s to achieve their intended result of not guilty. West Palm Beach Criminal Defense Attorney Andrew D. Stine has been helping those with criminal charges and arrests since 2001 in Palm Beach County, FL and has over a decade of experience in the criminal courtrooms successfully trying cases. If you or a loved one is seeking a criminal defense lawyer contact Andrew D. Stine. Hire Stine or Do the Time.

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