The intoxication defense is not one that is often used in criminal cases because it is rather difficult to successfully assert. The crux of it, though, is that a defendant, due to intoxication, did not understand the nature of his or her actions or know what he or she was doing, and therefore had limited culpability.
The defense typically only applies in very limited circumstances, and often depends on whether intoxication was voluntary or not and the level of intent required by statute for the particular charge at issue.
Recently in Broward County, a defense lawyer on a domestic violence case revealed his intent to assert the intoxication defense on behalf of a U.S. Air Force veteran who served overseas and was suffering severe post-traumatic stress disorder, back pain and depression at the time of the alleged incident.
According to The Sun Sentinel, the attorney hopes to persuade jurors that his client acted with diminished responsibility because he was under the influence of oxycodone (a powerful painkiller) and clonazepam (a tranquilizer) at the time of the offense. These drugs, he asserted, were consumed in large – but legally prescribed – doses just before the crimes were committed.
Interestingly, the defense lawyer is not seeking to assert the domestic violence crime did not happen or that defendant wasn’t the one who pulled the trigger. What he is alleging is that the defendant should be legally responsible, based on the intoxication defense.
News reports of the incident, which occurred in November 2012, involved defendant shooting and seriously injuring his estranged wife and her father in Coral Springs.
Hours before the incident, defendant reportedly went to a local Veterans Administration crisis center in Palm Beach County and asked for help, telling them he was “under extreme stress.” It’s not clear at this point why the center did not take further actions to intervene or to ascertain whether he was a danger to himself or others. There are also questions about why defendant legally had access to firearms, despite his history of mental health woes and numerous restraining orders.
Jurors are going to take all of this into account in weighing the charges against him.
The incident was reportedly captured in two 911 recordings, one made by defendant’s estranged wife and another by her father. Defendant’s 4-year-old son was also home during the incident, though he was not physically harmed. After shooting and seriously injuring both his ex-wife and her father, he allowed them and his son to leave and then surrendered after a brief standoff with local police.
Victim had reportedly left their shared residence two weeks earlier and had not allowed defendant to see their son, as she’d been waiting for a court-ordered custody hearing.
In a jailhouse recording to his mother, defendant told her that if he’d wanted to kill the victims, they would be dead. His gun had 14 bullets in the chamber and he had another 14 in his pocket. He insisted he was only trying to shoot out the door lock. He also told his mother in a separate phone call that the drugs he had been taking were, “very, very strong” and that he didn’t remember much of the evening, though he did recall the shootings.
His attorney now says his client did not receive the assistance he needed – the assistance he sought – for his severe PTSD. The clinic reportedly gave him more medications and then sent him out.
Call Fort Lauderdale Criminal Defense Attorney Richard Ansara at (954) 761-4011. Serving Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties.
Trial starting for ex-Air Force major accused of trying to kill his wife and her dad in Broward, Feb. 6, 2017, By Paula McMahon, Sun-Sentinel
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