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Washington Court Examines Voluntary Intoxication Instructions in Criminal Cases

Voluntary Intoxication

Certain crimes require the prosecution to establish an element of intent. As such, if a defendant is suffering from a diminished mental capacity because of involuntary intoxication when an alleged offense took place, they may be able to argue that they lacked the mens rea needed to sustain a conviction. RCW 9A.16.090 Intoxication. Substantial evidence is needed to demonstrate a lack of intent due to voluntary intoxication, however, as shown in a recent Washington case in which the defendant was convicted of assault and other crimes. If you are charged with an assault offense, you should speak to a Tacoma assault defense attorney about what steps you can take to protect your rights.

The Facts of the Case

It is reported that a witness observed a woman remove the license plate from a vehicle in a parking lot and walk away with the defendant. The witness called the police, who determined that the vehicle was stolen. Later that day, the defendant got in the vehicle and drove it away. While the police were pursuing the defendant, he struck a bystander with the vehicle, entered a stranger's house, and struck the stranger in the head with a gun.

It is alleged that the defendant was charged with multiple counts of assault and burglary. During his trial, he testified that he was under the influence of methamphetamines and other drugs during the relevant time period and could not form the requisite intent to commit assault. His attorney neglected to seek a voluntary intoxication instruction, and the jury convicted the defendant. He appealed, arguing that his counsel was ineffective for failing to request the instruction.

Voluntary Intoxication Instructions in Criminal Cases

The court found that the defendant's counsel was not ineffective and therefore denied his appeal. The court explained that a defendant would be entitled to a jury instruction of voluntary intoxication in cases in which the charged offense includes a mental state, and there is substantial evidence both that the defendant was intoxicated and that the intoxication impacted their ability to form the required mental state or intent.

The court noted that a defendant must do more than merely assert they were intoxicated to warrant the instruction; instead, they must offer evidence establishing their degree of intoxication and its impact on their body. In the subject case, though, while the defendant established he used amphetamines, he failed to prove it affected his ability to develop intent. As such, the instruction was not warranted and his appeal was denied.

Confer With a Skilled Tacoma Criminal Defense Lawyer

In order to convict people of assault crimes and other offenses, the prosecution must demonstrate that they harbored the requisite intent, and absent such evidence, a person charged with assault should be found not guilty. If you are accused of committing an assault crime, it is smart to confer with an attorney regarding your options for seeking a just outcome. The skilled Tacoma criminal defense lawyers of The Law Offices of Smith & White can advise you of your possible defenses and aid you in pursuing the best legal outcome available. You can reach us through our online form or by calling us at (253) 203-1645 to set up a consultation.

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