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Involuntary Intoxication: Applies To Prescription Medicine
*After 1st ¶ of CJ 4.23, add the following paragraph when appropriate:
Unanticipated intoxication which results from prescription medicine taken as prescribed is involuntary intoxication.
Points and Authorities
A person can be involuntarily intoxicated if he or she knowingly ingested a prescription medication but did not know or have reason to anticipate its intoxicating effects. (People v. Holloway DEPUB’D (2008) 164 CA4th 269, 287.)
The distinction between voluntary and involuntary intoxication is significant. Unconsciousness caused by voluntary intoxication is not a complete defense, but rather “can only have the effect of negating specific intent …” (People v. Kelly (73) 10 C3d 565, 572 [111 CR 171]; People v. Baker (54) 42 C2d 550, 575 [268 P2d 705]; see also PC 22.)
On the other hand, involuntary intoxication comes within the unconsciousness defense, codified in PC 26(4). “Unconsciousness due to involuntary intoxication is recognized as a complete defense to a criminal charge.” (People v. Cruz (78) 83 CA3d 308, 330 [147 CR 740]; see also People v. Scott (83) 146 CA3d 823, 832 [194 CR 633].)
In People v. Garcia DEPUBLISHED (90) 226 CA3d 403 [276 CR 517], the court concluded that unanticipated intoxication resulting from medicine which has been prescribed — and taken as prescribed — is involuntary intoxication. The Garcia court reached this conclusion in reliance upon the “majority view” of the cases from other jurisdictions and upon the model Penal Code. In the context of an illegal drug taken for the purpose of becoming intoxicated, however, the intoxication is involuntary only when the ingestion is involuntary. (People v. Jackson (89) 49 C3d 1170, 1194 [264 CR 852].)
Hence, when the defendant’s intoxication may have resulted from a combination of two intoxicants — one an illegal substance taken voluntarily and the second, a prescribed medicine — involuntary intoxication should still be a defense. In such a case, the defendant should have the right to have the jury instructed to disregard the ingestion of any prescription medicine in determining whether the defendant’s intoxication was voluntary. (The instruction proposed above is based upon the instruction requested by the defendant in Garcia.)
Further, the defendant also has the right to an instruction informing the jury that unconsciousness caused by involuntary intoxication is a complete defense. (See FORECITE F 4.30a and FORECITE F 4.22a.)
Failure to adequately instruct upon a defense or defense theory implicates the defendant’s state (Art. I, § 15 and § 16) and federal (6th and 14th Amendments) constitutional rights to trial by jury, compulsory process and due process. [See generally, FORECITE PG VII(C).]
When there is evidence of unconsciousness resulting from the ingestion of prescription medicine, the court should instruct upon the defense of unconsciousness. (See FORECITE F 4.30a.)
See Annotation, When intoxication deemed involuntary so as to constitute a defense to criminal charge, 73 ALR3d 195 and Later Case Service.
Unusual Or Unexpected Reaction To Prescription Medicine: The cases annotated in 73 ALR3d 195 suggest that intoxication is involuntary when the defendant experiences an unusual or unexpected reaction to prescription medicine. (See State v. Gilcrist (76 Wash.App.) 552 P2d 690, 692; People v. Turner (83 Colo. App.) 680 P2d 1290, 1293 [defendant entitled to have jury determine whether intoxication, due to overdose of drug prescribed for relief from migraine headaches, was involuntary where defendant’s past experience suggested that the amount taken would not cause intoxication]; City of Minneapolis v. Altimus (76 Minn. Supreme) 238 NW2d 851, 858 [error to reject requested instruction regarding involuntary intoxication when defendant experienced an unusual and unexpected reaction to valium prescribed for treatment of a back problem].) [Copies of the Gilcrest, Turner and Altimus opinions are available to FORECITE subscribers. Ask for Opinion Bank # O-171 a/b/c.]
Involuntary Intoxication: Actual Or Constructive
Knowledge Of Potential Intoxicating Effect
*Modify CJ 4.23 ¶ 1 to provide as follows [added language is capitalized; deleted language is between <<>>]:
Intoxication of a person is voluntary if it results from the willing use of any [intoxicating liquor, drug or other substance], [PRESCRIPTION DRUG], knowing that it is capable of an intoxicating affect or when <<[he] [she] willingly assumes the risk of that affect>> A REASONABLE PERSON IN THE DEFENDANT’S CONDITION WOULD HAVE KNOWN THAT TAKING THE [LIQUOR] [DRUG] [SUBSTANCE] WOULD CAUSE INTOXICATION.
Points and Authorities
Model PC 2.08(5)(b) (1962) defines self-induced intoxication as “intoxication caused by substances that the actor knowingly introduces into his body, the tendency of which to cause intoxication he knows or ought to know ….” [Emphasis added.] (See also People v. Holloway DEPUB’D (2008) 164 CA4th 269 [“CALCRIM No. 3427 should be modified to provide that a person can be involuntarily intoxicated if he or she knowingly ingested a prescription medication but did not know or have reason to anticipate its intoxicating effects”].) In other words, if the defendant does not actually know of the potential intoxicating effect, the intoxication is involuntary unless “a reasonable person [in the defendant’s] condition would … have known that taking [the substance] would have caused intoxication.” (People v. Chaffey (94) 25 CA4th 852, 857.)
CJ 4.23 fails to adequately convey this requirement, choosing instead to utilize the obscure and potentially confusing concept of assumption of risk. While the CALJIC instruction was cited in People v. Wyatt (72) 22 CA3d 671, 677 [99 CR 674], the adequacy of the assumption of risk language was not at issue in Wyatt. (Wyatt considered whether intoxication due to chronic alcoholism is involuntary.) Accordingly, the assumption of risk language should be replaced with the language set forth above so that the jury will be properly instructed upon the elements of intoxication.
Failure to adequately instruct the jury upon matters relating to proof of any element of the charge and/or the prosecution’s burden of proof thereon or failure to adequately instruct upon a defense or defense theory violates the defendant’s state (Art. I, § 15 and § 16) and federal (6th and 14th Amendments) constitutional rights to trial by jury, compulsory process and due process. [See generally, FORECITE PG VII.]