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Colorado DUI Law – Is it Possible To Raise An Involuntary Intoxication Defense?

By H. Michael Steinberg – Colorado DUI – DWAI – DUID Criminal Defense Lawyer Email the Author at [email protected]

Colorado DUI Law – Is it Possible To Raise An Involuntary Intoxication Defense? The law in Colorado on raising voluntary (self induced) intoxication as a defense in DUI cases is clear – not possible. But what about the Colorado defense of involuntary intoxication. Let’s flush out some of the issues in this area.

Colorado DUI Law - Is it Possible To Raise An Involuntary Intoxication Defense?

In Colorado The Defense Of Involuntary Intoxication Is Found In Section 18-1-804(3)

In Colorado involuntary intoxication is a defense to all crimes and can function to completely absolve a defendant of criminal responsibility for his or her conduct

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. 18-1-804.

To obtain a jury instruction asserting this affirmative defense to the jury, a defendant must first offer proof that constitutes “some credible evidence” of involuntary intoxication. [Affirmative Defenses – How Do They Work – HIT the link to the left]

Section 18-1-804 CRS requires FOUR distinct requirements that the accused must satisfy to benefit from the involuntary intoxication affirmative defense.

Known as the “Garcia” Elements – some credible evidence must be produced that:

(1) a substance was introduced into his or her body;

(2) the substance was not known to be an intoxicant or was taken pursuant to medical advice, or the defendant did not know the substance could act as an intoxicant;

(3) the substance caused a disturbance of mental or physical capacities; and

(4) the introduction of the substance resulted in the defendant’s lack of capacity to conform his or her conduct to the requirements of law.

Whether a particular defendant has provided some credible evidence of these four requirements, The judge decides – as a question of law at trial – whether he or she will permit and is therefore eligible to assert involuntary intoxication.

Importantly, Section 18-1-804(4), defines “intoxication” as “a disturbance of mental or physical capacities resulting from the introduction of any substance into the body.”

But What Constitutes Intoxication?

While the statute does not contain an exact definition of “intoxication,” the law in the form of Blacks Law Dictionary defines:

  • “involuntary intoxication” as ” [t]he ingestion of alcohol or drugs against one’s will or without one’s knowledge” and
  • intoxication” as ” a disturbance of mental or physical capacities resulting from the introduction of any substance into the body.” 18-1-804 (4).
  • “intoxication” is a ” diminished ability to act with full mental and physical capabilities because of alcohol or drug consumption; drunkenness.”

Did You Unknowingly Consume A Substance That Lead To Impairment While Driving?

If this happened to you – at a party – in college – then you may be permitted to argue this defense at your Colorado DUI Trial. That is, that, for example, you ingested prescribed medicine as prescribed and you were not made fully aware of the effects of taking the medication.

Some Examples Of Fact Patterns Supporting The Involuntary Intoxication Defense

A defendant is arrested for driving under the influence after taking what he thought was Ibuprofen; – the evidence is that the defendant’s friend placed her prescribed medication for depression in defendant’s bottle of Ibuprofen.

Involuntary Intoxication results when a defendant:

(1) unknowingly ingests a substance which causes that person to become impaired and

(2) then that person drove without the knowledge that they were or would become impaired while driving.

Another example is where a defendant voluntarily takes his or her medication, but the medication causes effects not anticipated by defendant or a reasonable person in the shoes of the defendant.

Here again the accused must introduce evidence that he or she became intoxicated condition by a substance that the person had no reason to know causes an intoxicated or drugged condition and as a result that person was rendered incapable of understanding what he or she was doing and to understand the consequences of their actions.

Another example might be the reliance on the advise of your physician. Here the accused is prosecuted for the Colorado crime of driving under the influence within the context of the voluntarily consumption of medication they knew might be intoxicating, but their doctor asured them the dosage – if taken as directed – was safe for the tasks involved in driving a motor vehicle.

Involuntary Intoxication and DUI – Revisited

Many jurisdictions consider driving under the influence a “strict liability” offense. This means that in order for a person to be convicted of driving under the influence, the prosecution need not prove that the person intended to drive drunk.

Understanding The Strict Liability Nature of the Crime of DUI

Under the laws of almost every state – DUI is a “strict liability” crime. The mental state that accompanies most crimes such as intent, knowing, recklessness, or negligence do not apply. Therefore even if you never intended to drive under the influence – you can still be found guilty at trial.

Proof of as DUI requires only two basic elements:

(1) the act of driving and

(2) you were impaired or otherwise under the influence of alcohol, a drug or drugs, or both.

Strict liability crimes – however – require a voluntary act or the failure to perform an act that you defendant is physically capable of performing. That voluntary act includes the consumption of alcohol or drugs or both and includes the voluntary act of driving.

So if a “substance” is introduced into your body without your permission or knowledge – there is no voluntary act of consumption and a crime has NOT been committed. See my article on “sleep driving under the drug “Ambien.”

Conclusion – Colorado DUI Law – Is it Possible To Raise An Involuntary Intoxication Defense?

A fundamental principal of Colorado criminal law is that a crime must result from a voluntary and responsible agent who chooses between the lawful and unlawful. Certain defenses exist because the law allows for a defense for actors who cause harm unintentionally or because they lack the capacity to intend the harm that results from their conduct. Among these are insanity, infancy and involuntary intoxication…all based on an accused’s lack of criminal incapacity.

These defenses recognize that sometimes people cannot choose to create or to avoid creating harms, and therefore should not be punished.

Colorado DUI Law – Is it Possible To Raise An Involuntary Intoxication Defense?

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: H. Michael Steinberg – Email The Author at [email protected] – A Denver Colorado DUI-DWAI-DUID Criminal Defense Lawyer – or call his office at 303-627-7777 during business hours – or call his cell if you cannot wait and need his immediate assistance – 720-220-2277.

If you are charged with A Colorado crime or you have questions about the topic of this article -Colorado DUI Law – Is it Possible To Raise An Involuntary Intoxication Defense?, please call our office. The Law Offices of H. Michael Steinberg, in Denver, Colorado, provide criminal defense clients with effective, efficient, intelligent and strong legal advocacy. We can educate you and help you navigate the stressful and complex legal process related to your criminal defense issue.

H. Michael Steinberg Colorado Criminal DefenseH. Michael Steinberg, is a Denver, Colorado criminal defense lawyer with over 30 years of day to day courtroom experience – specializing in Colorado Criminal Law along the Front Range. He will provide you with a free initial case consultation to evaluate your legal issues and to answer your questions with an honest assessment of your options. Remember, it costs NOTHING to discuss your case. Call now for an immediate free phone consultation.


Helping Clients To Make Informed Decisions In the Defense of Colorado Criminal Cases.

Contact A Lawyer with Three Decades of Experience as a Denver Criminal Attorney at The Steinberg Colorado Criminal Defense Law Firm today.

Colorado Defense Lawyer H. Michael Steinberg provides solid criminal defense for clients throughout the Front Range of Colorado – including the City and County courts of Adams County, Arapahoe County, City and County of Boulder, City and County of Broomfield, City and County of Denver, Douglas County, El Paso County – Colorado Springs, Gilpin County, Jefferson County, Larimer County, and Weld County,…. and all the other cities and counties of Colorado along the I-25 Corridor… on cases involving the subject of this article – Colorado DUI Law – Is it Possible To Raise An Involuntary Intoxication Defense?

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H. Michael Steinberg Esq.
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