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Can alcohol use affect one’s defense response to assault charges?

On Behalf of | Mar 22, 2024 | Violent Crimes

Washington state criminalizes most acts of intentional interpersonal violence. Someone who gets into a fistfight at a bar, concert or party could face arrest and prosecution. Those who injure others or even cause imminent fear of bodily harm sometimes face assault charges. The other party may file a police report, or the state could become involved due to reports made by witnesses or even those operating businesses.

Police officers can arrest someone days after an incident took place or in the middle of an altercation. Many people accused of assault panic and plead guilty instead of trying to fight their charges. Assault charges may lead to criminal penalties and a violent criminal record. Employers, landlords and educational institutions might deny someone opportunities because of a prior violent offense.

Sometimes, the person accused of assault may maintain their innocence in the hopes of successfully fighting their pending charges. Some defendants seek to prove that their actions did not technically violate the law. Can someone use alcohol impairment or other forms of inebriation as part of a defense strategy when facing assault charges?

Intoxication does not and personal responsibility

Alcohol is frequently a factor in criminal incidents involving violence, but intoxication generally does not protect someone from prosecution. Anyone who has consumed too much alcohol at least once in their life knows how drinking can impair judgment and alter conduct. People who make the decision to ingest large quantities of alcohol or other mind-altering substances put themselves at risk of making impaired decisions while under the influence.

They are still legally responsible for what they do after drinking even if they consume so much that they cannot make rational choices. Washington does not allow someone to argue their innocence during a criminal trial based on claims of voluntary intoxication. People who choose to drink are legally responsible for what they do while under the influence, even if they would never act that way while sober. However, those drugged by others could use involuntary intoxication as part of a defense strategy.

There are many other potential defense strategies, ranging from claims that someone acted in self-defense to questioning whether the defendant was the person involved in an altercation. Reviewing the state’s evidence with a skilled criminal defense attorney can help those accused of violent crimes plan for trial. Defendants familiar with the law and the evidence may have a better chance of prevailing in criminal court.