Is Intoxication A Defence? - Forrest Williams - Forrest Williams Is Intoxication A Defence? - Forrest Williams

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Is Intoxication A Defence?

But I was drunk. I didn’t mean to. I would never have done that sober. I didn’t know what I was doing.


So when is intoxication actually a defence?


First we must distinguish between intoxication by alcohol and intoxication by drugs, here I will consider alcohol intoxication. There can be a perception that intoxication causes offences – indeed British Crime Survey Statistics actually look for alcohol related crime but this can be misleading.


‘Alcohol-related crime’ is a popular rather than a legal term. Normally, it is used to refer to 2 main categories of offences:


  • Alcohol-defined offences such as drunkenness offences or driving with excess alcohol
  • Offences in which the consumption of alcohol is thought to have played a role of some kind in the committing of the offence, usually in the sense that the offender was under the influence of alcohol at the time.


The law likes to confuse matters, nothing is straight forward and what may help you in one situation may not in others. Intoxication from drinks or drugs is not, per se, a defence but it may, in certain circumstances, support an argument that your case should be considered in a different light than it may previously have been. The circumstances and situations in which intoxication can be considered are far too vast to consider in one article so please continue reading here for the next instalment.


The law gives no clear definition or consistent threshold for “intoxication” – just lots of mentions. We all know that what will render one “legless” will have little effect on another so the law will take each case on it’s own merits. Intoxication is also considered as either voluntary or involuntary; voluntary generally accepted as knowingly consuming the substance with involuntary more complicated. Involuntary doesn’t mean you didn’t know you were taking it (though can mean exactly that) it can also mean that the substance (potentially legal and even prescribed) consumed had an unforeseen effect.


What is found below is in no way exhaustive but may help to give you an idea of where you stand.




In motoring offences there are 3 main offences relating to intoxication (in laymans terms):


  • Drink Driving
  • Drunk in charge
  • Unfit through Drink or Drugs


Offences created through the Road Traffic Act 1998 (so those above) are considered a strict liability offence – meaning that you either are over the limit or you are not. The law states that the legal limit in breath is 35µg in 100µg of breath (or the equivalent in blood or urine). Driving offences are one of the few areas where a definitive limit can be found however even if you are found to be over the limit there may still be grounds for the court not to disqualify you. If the intoxication was involuntary then there may be Special Reasons for the courts not to disqualify you.


At Forrest Williams we promise to listen to you, to advise you honestly, and to help you in any way the law allows. Give our team a call on 01623 397200 and we will work with you to get the best outcome possible for your case.


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