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Voluntary intoxication- Fairfax criminal lawyer on its defensive limits

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Voluntary intoxication- Image of liquor

Voluntary intoxication- Fairfax criminal lawyer on its defense limits

Voluntary intoxication (VI) generally is not available as a defense against a Virginia assault or other prosecution. As a Fairfax criminal lawyer, I know that an exception to the foregoing general rule is that: “It has long been settled in Virginia, and elsewhere generally, that voluntary drunkenness (as distinguished from settled insanity produced by drink) affords no excuse for crime, save only that where premeditation is a material question the intoxication of the accused may be considered by the jury.” Johnson v. Commonwealth of Virginia, 135 Va. 524, 529 (1923). The premeditation issue typically applies to first degree murder defense, and the Virginia Supreme Court has characterized it in that vein: “Generally, [VI] is not an excuse for any crime. Boswell v. Com., 61 Va. (20 Gratt.) 860, 870 (1871). The only exception to this general rule is in cases involving deliberate and premeditated murder. Gills v. Commonwealth, 141 Va. 445, 450, 126 S.E. 51, 53 (1925). Mere intoxication will not negate premeditation.” Wright v. Commonwealth of Virginia, 234 Va. 627, 629 (1988). 

Why is voluntary intoxication not a defense against Virginia prosecutions, other than for claiming the absence of the premeditation prong of first degree murder?

In my role as a Fairfax criminal lawYer, some of my clients have asked me about using their voluntary intoxication as a defense against their non-murder criminal or Virginia DUI prosecution. For me to provide the best reason why Virginia courts limit this defense accordingly, I quote from the following British caselaw that the Virginia Supreme Court approvingly addressed in 1871: “In 1 Hale’s P. C. page 32, he says: ‘The third sort of madness is that which is dementia affectata; namely, drunkenness. This vice doth deprive a man of his reason, and puts many men into a perfect, but temporary frenzy; but by the laws of England, such a person shall have no privilege by his voluntarily contracted madness, but shall have the same judgment as if he were in his right senses.’ See also 1 Russell on Crimes, p. 7; and 4 Bl. Com. 26. Blackstone says, in regard to the excuse of drunkenness; ‘The law of England, considering how easy it is to counterfeit this excuse, and how weak an excuse it is, though real, will not suffer any man thus to privilege one crime by another.’ In Rex v. Thomas, 7 Car. & Payne R. 817, 820, Parke, B. said to the jury: ‘I must also tell you, that if a man makes himself voluntarily drunk, it is no excuse for any crime he may commit whilst he is so; he must take the consequences of his own voluntary act, or most crimes would go unpunished.’ And in John Burrow’s cas , 1 Crim. C. C. 238, Holroyd, J. told the jury: ‘Drunkenness is not insanity, nor does it answer to what is termed an unsound mind, unless the derangement which it causes becomes fixed and continued by the drunkenness being habitual, and thereby rendering the party incapable of distinguishing between right and wrong.'” Boswell v. Commonwealth of Virginia, 61 Va. 860, 869-70 (1871).

Can I simply argue that alcohol made me insane / not criminally responsible, and that I should therefore be acquitted of the Virginia crimes alleged against me?

Rare will be the instances where a criminal trial judge will agree that — beyond any alleged temporary and voluntary intoxication — the generated evidence is sufficient to argue for the jury to be instructed that the Virginia criminal defendant was such a habitual drunkard as to have made the accused insane and not criminally responsible for his or her alleged crimes.

How should I choose the right Virginia criminal lawyer for defending me against assault, murder and other Virginia criminal charges?

If you are being prosecuted for an alleged Virginia crime, it is vital to timely obtain a qualified lawyer. Fairfax criminal lawyer Jonathan Katz has successfully defended thousands of people against Virginia DUI, felony and misdemeanor prosecutions. Call 703-383-1100 for your free initial in-person confidential consultation with Jon Katz about your court-pending case.