There are multiple aspects involved in charging and convicting someone with a crime in the United States. Typically, law enforcement and then prosecutors must establish that an individual committed an act that violates federal or state statutes. Then, they typically also have to demonstrate that there was criminal intent, which means that the person involved meant to break the law.

As such, making arguments about the capacity of the alleged offender to recognize that their act was a criminal one is a somewhat common defense strategy. Improving diminished capacity, possibly by means of temporary insanity, is a strategy that falls into this category that has received a lot of use by the entertainment industry.

Some people might also argue that impairment or intoxication at the time of a crime means that they don’t have criminal responsibility. Can you use intoxication as a defense strategy against pending assault charges after a drunken altercation?

The law makes it clear that impairment is no excuse

Although this issue could be a gray area in certain jurisdictions, that is not the case for those facing charges in Massachusetts. State lawmakers have specifically addressed this particular approach to criminal defense. The state code makes it clear that intoxication or impairment is not a defense against any sort of criminal offense. After all, the defendant knowingly consumed drugs or alcohol in order to experience the chemically altered state.

Intoxicating chemicals aren’t the cause of human behavior

Research does not generally support the claim that people behave inherently differently while under the influence. Rather, intoxicating substances tend to highlight existing behavioral traits and patterns while also decreasing inhibition and the ability to focus on the bigger picture. In other words, someone with a bit of a temper who might not usually get physical with others might take a swing at someone after they’ve had a few drinks.

Although impairment is not a defense against criminal charges, that doesn’t mean there isn’t a defense to your assault charge. Perhaps you were under the impression that the other party posed an imminent threat, so you were defending yourself. Maybe they took the first swing, which means that you were only responding in kind with physical violence and were not the one to initiate it.

Carefully exploring the circumstances of the situation that led to your charges can give you an idea of how you might defend yourself in court.