While not a defence against criminal charges, intoxication can be significant in a jury’s assessment of whether all the elements of a crime existed.
Intoxication can be relevant when dealing with offences which can only be proven if the court is satisfied that the accused intended to commit a crime. When a person is charged with an offence of intent, it is up to the prosecution to prove that the accused acted intentionally and intended a specific result.
Examples of specific intent offences are:
Homicide or Murder, where the accused must have intended to kill the victim;
Theft, where the accused must have intended to permanently deprive someone of their property;
Fraud, where the accused must have intended to deceive another party and gain through that deception;
Intentionally causing serious injury, where the accused must have deliberately assaulted a victim with the intent of causing a serious injury.
When the defence of intoxication is raised, it is the responsibility of the accused to prove that due to their intoxication, they were not acting voluntarily and thus did not intend to commit an offence. In such cases, the court will compare their actions to that of a ‘reasonable sober person’ to determine whether their intoxication impaired their judgement and ability to form intention.
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