Intent or the mental decision to commit a crime is a critical component in most criminal proceedings. Whether you intended to commit a crime or not can influence whether you get convicted and the penalties that you face after a conviction.

Certain situations can impact your ability to legally consent and could therefore influence your ability to have criminal intent. For example, signing a contract while under the influence of drugs or alcohol could mean that the contract doesn’t hold up in court because you weren’t sober enough to give your consent.

If you are too drunk to consent to a contract, does that mean that you were too drunk to have had criminal intent? Could your impairment be part of a defense strategy?

Alcohol or drug use alone does not justify criminal activity

Historically, there have been cases where people have tried to claim impairment as an excuse for criminal activity. Lawmakers have taken steps to prevent that from being an option in order to protect civil society. Becoming voluntarily impaired does not protect someone from the consequences of the decisions that they make while under the influence.

State law specifically includes language in Tennessee that prohibits individuals from using voluntary intoxication as a defense against criminal proceedings. Intoxication does not prevent you from having the intent to commit a crime or responsibility for its consequences on others.

Basically, if you decided to drink, you will have to live with the consequences of drunken decisions, which might have included getting into a fistfight that led to assault charges.

Involuntary intoxication could help your defense

Sometimes, people lie about how much alcohol is in a drink. Other times, they might go so far as to put drugs in a beverage or food without warning the person about to consume the product. If you did not know and did not consent to alcohol consumption or drug use, your involuntary intoxication could help in your defense. Any voluntary impairment, however, will not.

Knowing your options for criminal defense can help you make better decisions when facing charges. Although an impairment-based defense may not work in your case, there could be other options that will help you fight pending charges.