Involuntary Intoxication and DUI
Involuntary intoxication is a defense to DUI, that deals with the intent aspect of driving under the influence laws. It is rare, but given the right fact pattern, it can result in the dismissal of DUI charges under California law.
Important – if you were arrested for DUI anywhere in Orange County, but think you may have had some substance other than alcohol slipped into your drink, or otherwise caused you to become unconscious, comatose, or act unusually, you should do two things:
- Let the police know. Intoxicating someone against their will is a crime.
- Get a lab test of your blood or urine as soon as you can. Many substances will stay in the body only a short time, but the presence of a drug on a toxicology test done right away may help you later.
How does the law define involuntary intoxication?
Involuntary intoxication is defined by case law, primarily through the case of People v. Velez (1985) 175 Cal.App.3d 785, 796 [221 Cal.Rptr. 631]. Calfornia’s jury instruction 3427, which instructs on the law to be used regarding involuntary intoxication in a DUI or other criminal trial, states as follows:
“Consider any evidence that the defendant was involuntarily intoxicated in deciding whether the defendant had the required intent or mental state when he/she acted.
A person is involuntarily intoxicated if he or she unknowingly ingested some intoxicating liquor, drug, or other substance, or if his or her intoxication is caused by the force, duress, fraud, or trickery of someone else, for whatever purpose, without any fault on the part of the intoxicated person.” (emphasis added)
What is a common involuntary intoxication fact scenario?
Involuntary intoxication is commonly used where the driver in a DUI consumed a substance without knowing it. This could be from someone slipping something in his or her drink, or ingesting a substance that the person did not know was intoxicating, or was specifically illegal to drive under.
Those substances can be date rape drugs, like GHB, Rohypnol, or “Roofies”, or any related tranquilizer drugs. They could have been ingested unknowingly by someone playing a prank, or with more sinister motives, might spike food or drink with marijuana or cannabis, cocaine, methamphetamine or other substances, by itself, or in combination with alcohol.
Realize, however, that the most common date rape drug is alcohol – and over serving alcohol beyond what someone thinks they are consuming, unfortunately, happens more than you may think.
How can involuntary intoxication be a defense to DUI?
The law requires a mental element, that is an intent to do something. In a drinking and driving case, as you might expect, one intentional act was to consume alcohol (or drugs, for a driving under the influence of drugs [DUID] case), and a separate intentional act was to drive.
While most involuntary intoxication cases do not dispute that the person was driving, they may allege that the substance found in their breath, blood, or urine, that impaired their ability to drive safely (and legally) was not voluntarily consumed.
How can an attorney help assert involuntary intoxication in a DUI case?
The law states that for the defense of involuntary intoxication, the defense has the burden of proof of showing that specific issue, even though the prosecution has the burden of proof of the case overall.
An attorney can gather evidence from witnesses, or receipts from an evening out, to show that alcohol, or another substance, was not voluntarily consumed. Videotapes from security camera systems installed in establishments are often very helpful in involuntary intoxication cases to help prove the defense. In some cases, independent lab tests were done shortly after the arrest, or medical expert witness opinion evidence in a DUI is also helpful to prove the defense’s case.
In one DUI trial in Orange County that our law firm handled, we were able to show receipts, and statements from the server of alcohol, that the “Arnold Palmer” drink (half lemonade, half non-alcoholic iced tea) that our client consumed, which should have been prepared with no alcohol, must have been improperly prepared, or spiked with alcohol, as she ended up with alcohol in her system when stopped by the police. We were able to explain why our client had alcohol in her system when she had not intended to, using witnesses (including the bartender and others present), and why she was stopped while driving under the influence of alcohol.
As described above, our firm of DUI Attorneys in Orange County have had experience asserting DUI where the defense of involuntary intoxication might be appropriate, either from someone slipping something in your drink, or spiking food or drink with a substance that caused a driver to become DUI. Contact us today.