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Can intoxication serve as a defense to assault charges?

You were out drinking with your friends or just grabbing a beer after work. All of the sudden, someone started arguing with you. One thing led to another, and you ended up throwing a punch. Unfortunately, someone else called the police, so you wound up arrested and charged with assault.

You are usually relatively laid back. Under normal circumstances, you would never become violent over something minor. Could the fact that you weren’t sober be used as a defense to your charges?

South Dakota usually does not allow intoxication-based defenses

People have historically blamed alcohol for many social ills, including violence. Still, the average person understands that alcohol will impact their cognition and behavior when deciding to take a drink.

South Dakota has a legal statute explicitly prohibiting the vast majority of intoxication-based defenses. No matter how intoxicated you may be, you cannot claim that as an absolute defense for violent behavior or other criminal actions — although evidence of intoxication can be used to negate the elements of some charges. For example, it may allow an attorney to argue that a client lacked the mental capacity to form the necessary intent to commit certain offenses.

Involuntary intoxication, such as the kind that occurs when someone is drugged without their knowledge, is treated differently — but that’s not a very common occurrence.

You may have other possible defenses to assault available

When you’re facing assault charges, it’s important to speak with an attorney before speaking with anybody else, including the police. Defenses to assault charges are usually highly fact-specific. An experienced criminal defense attorney can help you better understand the charges you face and the options you have to resolve your case.