Is Intoxication a Defense to Criminal Charges in Texas?

Texas Penal Code 8.04 covers voluntary intoxication.  That provision says, “Voluntary intoxication does not constitute a defense to the commission of a crime.”

Temporary insanity may be caused by intoxication and may be admissible in the punishment phase of a trial to attempt to mitigate.  What this means, in layman’s terms, is that you can only utilize voluntary intoxication to the extent that it can help you in the punishment phase of trial — i.e. after the judge or jury has already decided that you are guilty.

Intoxication in this section of the Penal Code means “disturbance of mental or physical capacity resulting from the introduction of any substances into the body.”

Involuntary intoxication (where perhaps someone was drugged without their knowledge — and then committed a crime) is far more complex.  The law used to be well settled in Texas that involuntary intoxication was an affirmative defense to some crimes, however, in 2002 the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals held that the defense was encompassed in other defenses — such as not having the proper mens rea in Mendenhall v. State, 77 S.W.3d 815 (Tex.Crim.App.– 2002).

Jeremy F. Rosenthal, Esq.

(972) 562-7549

*Jeremy Rosenthal is Board Certified in Criminal Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization and licensed by the Supreme Court of Texas. Nothing in this article is intended to be legal advice.  For legal advice about any specific matter you should consult an attorney.


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