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Intoxication as a defence and as a component of lack of consent

Legally, ‘intoxication’ is a state of being under the influence of any drug or substance such as alcohol that alters the mood or behaviour of the person. Amphetamines, for instance, induce sleeplessness and alertness for long periods of time.

Prolonged use or dependence on amphetamines or metamphetamines generates or aggravates paranoia. Alcohol, in low concentrations in the blood, can lower a person’s inhibitions and induce a person to engage in risky behaviour. In high concentrations, alcohol can render a person unable to control his muscle movements and may induce a coma.

Because of the mood- altering properties of drugs and alcohol, intoxication is used commonly as a defence in criminal prosecutions. The underlying thinking in using this defence is that when a person is intoxicated his or her actions may not be voluntary as his or her mood and perception of circumstances may be influenced by the drug or alcohol.

Intoxication can be used by both the prosecution and the defence as a factual element of a crime in sexual assault. On the part of the prosecution, it may present evidence that the victim may have been intoxicated by the assailant to render her unable to resist or to express non-consent to the sexual assault.

One example is when the prosecution presents evidence that the assailant and the victim knew each other because they have been dating. The assailant may have surreptitiously added a ‘date rape’ drug into the food or drink of the victim and proceeded to have sexual intercourse with the victim. When the victim regained consciousness, she would have no memory of the sexual assault.

On the part of the accused that is charged with sexual assault, he or she may present evidence that an alteration of mood or perception may be a side effect of a legally prescribed drug he or she had taken. The alteration of his mood or perception caused him or her to mistakenly think or believe that the complainant had given consent to the sexual intercourse when the victim did not, in fact, consent to the sexual intercourse.

If you were intoxicated by a drug or by alcohol and during that time, you committed sexual assault, you must disclose this fact to your lawyer who can establish this defence in your behalf. Consult with a criminal lawyer now.

Disclaimer : This article is just a summary of the subject matter being discussed and should not be regarded as a comprehensive legal advice for you to defend yourself alone. If you are charged with criminal offences, it is recommended that you seek legal assistance from criminal lawyers.

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