A Fort Lauderdale assault case is raising the question of whether intoxication is a valid defense for a crime under Florida law.
Fort Lauderdale assault defense attorneys know that, certainly, drugs or alcohol abuse are factors in many crimes. But does it matter whether a person is too drunk or drugged to know that their actions are wrong?
Before we answer that, let’s look at the case in question.
According to The Sun-Sentinel, a Connecticut man is accused of getting into a bar fight in Fort Lauderdale, which resulted in the defendant reportedly biting off the ear of the alleged victim.
Reports indicate that the 29-year-old defendant had been drinking at the bar for about five hours straight. He was belligerent, and started an argument with a stranger who was walking by.
In a video posted to YouTube, the victim is seen attempting to calmly walk away. The defendant charges at him and bites his ear, causing it to become severed from his head. Doctors were not able to reattach it.
The men continued to brawl until an officer broke it up.
The intoxicated man was arrested on charges of assault, a second-degree misdemeanor under FL Statute 784.011, and aggravated battery, which is a second-degree felony under FL Statute 784.045, punishable by up to 15 years in prison.
The ear-biter’s Fort Lauderdale defense attorney has said that his client remembers none of the incident. He was reportedly so intoxicated that he has no recollection of it whatsoever. His attorney also said his client has expressed remorse, and because he does not remember the incident, can offer no motive.
But does the fact that he was so drunk that he had no intent to harm the individual matter?
No. Not likely in this case, anyway.
Prior to 1999, it would have been a valid defense for certain crimes where intent was critical to proving guilt.
But now, under FL Statute 775.051, voluntary intoxication is not a defense. Voluntary intoxication is described as a state of intoxication which was voluntarily brought about. That means that you intentionally consumed alcohol or drugs. Whether or not you intended to become intoxicated, the court believes you knew that to be a risk when you consumed those items, and therefore, you are still considered liable for whatever actions you take after that.
However, just like in English grammar, there are always exceptions.
The exception would be involuntary intoxication. This would be a state of intoxication which can generally be described as having been brought about by the lawful or prescribed consumption of a substance by your doctor that rendered you legally insane. This was decided by the state’s district court of appeals in Miller v. State back in 1995.
So for example, if you are prescribed a drug by your doctor – a drug that you use in accordance with that prescription – and it can be proven that you became unintentionally intoxicated as a result, this can be used as a defense. Now, if you take your legal prescription and the effects are compounded by alcohol consumption, you may lose that legal footing.
It’s important to note that each case is unique, which is why it’s critical to consult with a Fort Lauderdale Assault attorney who can help you explore all possible defenses.