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Is alcohol consumption a defense against assault charges?

It happens all the time at sports bars, busy restaurants and social gatherings. People who have had too much to drink get into an animated conversation, and that conversation quickly turns into an argument. Pretty soon, one of the two announces that they want to go outside, and fists start to fly.

Altercations and alcohol often go hand-in-hand, and sometimes there are no major consequences for an alcohol-fueled fight. However, sometimes individuals get arrested during the fight because others called the police. Someone involved in a fight could even face arrest days later.

Given that assault charges could lead to jail time, fines and a criminal record, someone accused of assault after a drunken fistfight in South Dakota may want to defend themselves. A successful defense requires an evaluation of the situation and an understanding of state law.

Will your inebriation help you defend against assault charges?

Alcohol does affect your judgment

The basis for an intoxication-related defense strategy is simple. A person under the influence of alcohol may not have the legal capacity to sign a contract or offer informed consent. Given their impaired state, it may seem logical to claim that they are incapable of having the necessary criminal intent to face charges.

You won’t find many people willing to argue with you about the negative way that alcohol affects people’s personal judgment. Someone drinking may be more impulsive, outgoing and even aggressive than they are when sober. However, because the effects of alcohol are well-known, you cannot use your impairment as an affirmative defense.

Under South Dakota law, voluntary intoxication does not eliminate legal responsibility for criminal actions, like assault. Only in situations where someone could prove involuntary intoxication, such as a spiked drink, could they potentially use chemical impairment as part of their defense strategy.

You can still fight back against assault charges

You don’t have to plead guilty just because drinking itself won’t excuse your behavior. There are numerous ways to defend against assault charges in South Dakota. You could show that the other party threw the first punch and you simply want to defend yourself. There could even be witnesses that help you prove the other party initiated the fight.

Learning more about criminal law in South Dakota will help you defend against a pending assault charge.