Intoxication Defenses in Georgia


Intoxication Defenses in Georgia

Being charged with a crime is scary, I know. And it’s even scarier if you were under the influence of alcohol or drugs at the time. You may be wondering – can I use intoxication as a defense in court? The answer is…it depends.

Intoxication defenses in Georgia can be tricky. There’s voluntary intoxication and involuntary intoxication, and the laws treat them differently. Let me break it down for you so you understand your options if you were under the influence when you committed an alleged crime.

Voluntary Intoxication

If you got drunk or high by choice, that’s called voluntary intoxication. And unfortunately, it’s not a valid defense in Georgia. The law says that voluntary intoxication “shall not be an excuse for any criminal act or omission”[1].

So if you went to a party, drank too much, and then committed a crime like assault or theft, you can’t use being drunk as a defense. The court will say you chose to impair your judgement, so you’re still responsible for your actions.

I know, it seems unfair. We’ve all made dumb choices when drinking that we regret later. But the law has to draw a line somewhere, otherwise anyone could get away with crimes by saying “I was wasted.”

There are a few exceptions where voluntary intoxication can be argued to reduce a charge, like lowering murder to manslaughter. But generally it won’t get you off the hook. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news.

Involuntary Intoxication

Now involuntary intoxication is different. This means you got drunk or high against your will or without your knowledge[2].

For example, maybe someone spiked your drink at a party. Or they coerced you into taking drugs when you didn’t want to. That would be involuntary intoxication.

Georgia law says involuntary intoxication can be a valid defense if it prevented you from knowing right from wrong when you committed the alleged crime[1]. The legal definition is if you “did not have sufficient mental capacity to distinguish between right and wrong” because of the involuntary intoxication[1].

So if you can prove the intoxication was involuntary and you were so impaired you didn’t know what you were doing, you may be able to avoid conviction.

Proving Involuntary Intoxication

To use this defense in court, you’ll need to show:

  • You consumed the intoxicating substance through “excusable ignorance” – meaning you didn’t know what it was or that it would intoxicate you
  • Or someone coerced, defrauded, or tricked you into taking the substance against your will

You’ll also need evidence that you were actually involuntarily intoxicated, like a drug test or witness statements. And a toxicology expert can help show the intoxication made you unable to tell right from wrong.

It’s not an easy defense to prove. The court will look at whether you should have known drinking or taking drugs could impair you. Like if you combined prescriptions with alcohol against medical advice, that won’t fly[3].

But with the right evidence and lawyer arguments, involuntary intoxication can get charges dismissed or reduced. So don’t assume you’re automatically guilty if you were under the influence.

Other Defenses to Consider

Intoxication isn’t your only defense option. Here are some other common defenses in Georgia to consider:

  • Self-defense – You can argue you acted in self-defense against an attacker
  • Entrapment – Claim police improperly induced you into committing the crime
  • Duress – Argue you only broke the law because someone threatened you
  • Insanity – If mental illness made you unable to tell right from wrong
  • Mistaken identity – You didn’t actually commit the crime, someone else did

An experienced criminal defense lawyer can help assess which defenses could get your charges reduced or dismissed. Don’t just assume you’re doomed because you were intoxicated.

Talk to a Lawyer

I know dealing with criminal charges is overwhelming. But a good lawyer can look at the details of your case and advise how intoxication and other defenses apply.

So don’t go it alone. Consult an attorney as soon as possible so they can start building your defense. And don’t talk to police until you have a lawyer present – anything you say can be used against you.

Hopefully this gave you a good overview of how intoxication defenses work in Georgia. Let me know if you have any other questions! I know this is scary but we’ll get through it together.


[1] O.C.G.A. § 16-3-4

[2] Involuntary Intoxication in Georgia

[3] Carter v. State