Criminal Law.  Voluntary intoxication or involuntary intoxication (whether caused by alcohol or by drugs) is a defense to a crime when it negates the existence of an element of that crime.

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People v. Low, 732 P.2d 622 (Colo. 1987)

The Affirmative Defense of Intoxication

Intoxication, voluntary or involuntary, is a “disturbance of mental or physical capacities resulting from the introduction of any substance into the body.” § 18-1-804(4), 8B C.R.S. (1986). Voluntary or self-induced intoxication is “caused by substances which the defendant knows or ought to know have the tendency to cause intoxication and which he knowingly introduced or allowed to be introduced into his body….” § 18-1-804(5), 8B C.R.S. (1986). Involuntary intoxication is intoxication that is not self-induced, see § 18-1-804(3), 8B C.R.S. (1986), and by definition occurs when the defendant does not knowingly ingest an intoxicating substance, or ingests a substance not known to be an intoxicant. See § 18-1-804(5), 8B C.R.S. (1986); People v. Turner, 680 P.2d 1290 (Colo.App.1983).

While the characterization of intoxication as self-induced or involuntary depends on the facts of each case, the legal consequences of voluntary or involuntary intoxication are clear. An involuntarily intoxicated person is not criminally responsible for his conduct if at the time of the alleged offense the defendant “lacks capacity to conform his conduct to the requirements of law.” § 18-1-804(3), 8B C.R.S. (1986). Involuntary intoxication is in this respect similar to “temporary insanity” because there is no immoral or blameworthy stigma attached to the conditionSee generally R. Perkins & R. Boyce, Criminal Law 1005 (3d ed. 1982) (involuntary intoxication establishes that the accused’s “derangement is without culpability and hence is to be dealt with the same as if it were 628*628 the result of mental disease or defect.” (footnote omitted)); W. LaFave & A. Scott, Handbook on Criminal Law § 45, at 347 (involuntary intoxication is “a defense if it puts the defendant in such a state of mind, e.g., so that he does not know the nature and quality of his act or know that his act is wrong, in a jurisdiction which has adopted the M’Naghten test for insanity.” (footnote omitted)). The General Assembly thus has made involuntary intoxication a complete defense to all crimes. See Hendershott v. People, 653 P.2d 385, 396 n. 10 (Colo.1982), cert. denied, 459 U.S. 1225, 103 S.Ct. 1232, 75 L.Ed.2d 466 (1983).

Voluntary intoxication “may be offered by the defendant when it is relevant to negate the existence of a specific intent if such intent is an element of the crime charged.” § 18-1-804(1), 8B C.R.S. (1986). Consequently, evidence of voluntary intoxication constitutes a defense to specific intent crimes, but is incompetent as a defense to general intent crimesId. See also People v. Aragon, 653 P.2d 715 (Colo.1982); People v. Roark, 643 P.2d 756 (Colo.1982); People v. DelGuidice,199 Colo. 41, 606 P.2d 840 (1979).

In People v. Turner, 680 P.2d 1290 (Colo.App.1983), the court of appeals considered the analogous situation of a defendant who claimed that he became involuntarily intoxicated by mistakenly consuming an overdose of a prescription drug. The defendant testified that he had not been warned that intoxication would result from exceeding the prescribed dosage, and that he believed that the excessive dosages would induce sleep and not intoxication. The court of appeals reversed the trial court’s exclusion of evidence relating to drug ingestion because the defendant’s testimony provided “sufficient credible evidence to submit the defense [of involuntary intoxication] to the jury.” Turner, 680 P.2d at 1293.

Low claimed that the manufacturer’s warning did not indicate that intoxication was a possible side effect of ingesting large quantities of the medication, and Low’s previous experience with “HOLD” did not alert him to the possibility of intoxication.[7] Expert testimony established that Low’s consumption of excessive quantities of dextromethorphan hydrobromide resulted in delusional and psychotic behavior, precluding Low from conforming his conduct to the requirements of law. Had the trial court found as a factual matter that Low was involuntarily intoxicated, assuming the finding was supported by sufficient competent evidence, its judgment of acquittal would have been proper. There are no special pleading requirements for the affirmative defense of involuntary intoxication,[8] and an involuntarily intoxicated defendant is absolved of responsibility for all criminal acts. See §§ 18-1-804(3), 18-1-805, 8B C.R.S. (1986); see also People v. Gallegos, 628 P.2d 999, 1001-02 (Colo.1981).

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