Being Drunk Ain’t a Great Defense…for AnythingThere’s nothing wrong with getting a little “slizzard,” as the kids say, every once in a while. Everyone needs to let loose sometimes with a few drinks and some friends, right? But as true as that is, being drunk doesn’t absolve you of your actions — at least, not entirely, not always, and not easily. It doesn’t matter that it’s legal to be heavily under the influence (to a point) if you’ve been accused of a crime, and in many cases, it can just make things worse.

Unless you were drugged or otherwise put under an influence without your consent or knowledge, breaking the law drunk is still just breaking the law. This all seems fair on the surface, but the truth is this attitude from the law often disproportionally hurts people suffering from PTSD, addiction, or alcoholism. Instead of getting these folks (commonly veterans) the treatment they need to get better, they’re often faced with an extra layer of distrust and malice from everyone other than, frankly, their attorney.

Annapolis cops are not your friends, especially when actively arresting you

You may think being honest about being too drunk to intend to break a law will gain you brownie points, but it absolutely will not. Tell your attorney that happened privately (and for the love of everything, please hire an attorney), but there is a very good reason why your arresting officers tell you that you have the right to remain silent. “Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law.” Read that slowly, out loud, backward, and then read it again. I, Drew Cochran, solemnly swear that they are not kidding. They really do mean Anything. You. Say.

Let’s say you get into a car accident. For this argument’s sake, let’s say you didn’t even cause it. The officer gets there, he’s playing Bad Cop with the other driver, and you feel bad and say, “Look, sir, it’s probably my fault, I had a couple of beers before I left.” BOOM! DUI. Magic. And that “confession” will be read at court, and probably slowly and out loud and more than once, I assure you.

Maybe you get pulled over and the cop accuses you of smoking weed, and you jokingly say, “Oh no, it’s alcohol.” Even if it’s not true, even if neither weed nor alcohol was true, guess what? Yeah…DUI. Remember DUI convictions are especially serious in Maryland, too.

If you’re being arrested for suspicion of a violent crime like assault, domestic violence, or even murder, it becomes even more imperative that you keep your mouth shut. No snark, no jokes, no small talk. The cops may (though it’s doubtful) be nice to you; they may even joke back. But rest assured, they are listening to every word you say for anything they can use against you in court later — because it’s their job to do so. They’re allowed to lie and manipulate freely, and they know how to do it better than you. Even if you are entirely innocent, and especially if you’re not, verbally assert your right to an attorney and then shut entirely up.

Alcoholic-based defenses exist, just not like that

So, yeah, voluntary intoxication is technically a legal defense that exists in this country, but it does not mean what you think it means. Well…it does mean you were intoxicated voluntarily, but the point of that defense is to assert that you were too drunk (or high) to intend to commit the crime you were accused of. This is NOT an easy defense to leverage, and it is something your attorney brings forth — not you. It also isn’t applicable in every crime, no matter how drunk you were. For example, if you got messed up beyond belief at a party and accidentally stumbled into a stranger’s apartment and ate their food, voluntary intoxication could allege that you were too drunk to know what you were doing and thus should not be convicted of burglary.

The rule of thumb is only specific intent crimes like that or some forms of assault and murder can be eligible for that defense, because you must have a specific intent for the consequences of your actions to be found guilty (like, if you texted your buddy about how you were gonna break into that guy’s home and eat his pizza, you’ve just admitted intent and now it’s general and you’re in bigger trouble). Even then, you might still be convicted and simply given a lesser sentence.

If you were accused of a crime of general intent, meaning a crime you generally intended to commit regardless of your alcohol level, voluntary intoxication is just not an option. This means most cases of assault, domestic violence, and murder are all exempt from this defense, as these are usually general intent crimes. The prosecution only has to prove you intended to initiate harmful contact.

In other words, if you got into a bar fight and intended to punch that guy but didn’t intend to break his face that much, your intoxication level will not save you in court. Or, if you had a fight with your spouse and she issues a victim impact statement about how you constantly drink until you’re okay with hitting her, admitting you were drunk at all will just corroborate that statement, increase the bias against you, and make things worse. Just being intoxicated does not always erase intent, according to Maryland law.

However, that does not mean there are no defenses available to you. That’s the beauty of us criminal defense attorneys — we know how to find stuff. Sure, you can’t claim voluntary intoxication, but there is a known, strong link between domestic violence and substance abuse, especially among our veterans who are rarely given the mental health treatment they deserve when they come home. A skilled criminal defense attorney like me may be able to get you into rehabilitation and other treatment centers instead of prison and a criminal conviction. It may still be in-patient, but it’s also still better than the alternative.

Even if you’ve already been convicted, if you’re legitimately suffering from addiction we can file a motion for reconsideration to get you out of jail and into treatment instead. For those with concurrent mental illnesses, they may receive treatment for that alongside their addiction if proven in court. The main thing to remember is that no case is hopeless, no matter the details — but you still need to be careful and let your attorney handle the talking.

Know how to act in court before you get there

Of all the things judges have, a sense of humor is very rarely one of them, especially if you’re there for a serious crime. Just because you’ve already been charged with something doesn’t mean they can’t charge you further after you decide to TikTok-dance on the stand. If you do not take things seriously, they won’t take you seriously — no matter how innocent you are. No case is ever hopeless, but no case is ever guaranteed, either. Sit down, be polite, dress well, and — oh my goodness, for the love of everything pure in the world — do not come to court drunk.

Help yourself by hiring me, Drew, to help you

When you hire a skilled and experienced criminal defense attorney like me, you’re not just hiring a legal bodyguard and a personal comedian. My job covers everything from gathering evidence, questioning witnesses, extensive legal research, and case-building to providing personal, tailored advice, finding the appropriate (and sometimes rarely known) defenses to employ on your behalf, and arguing relentlessly for fair treatment and freedom. Representing yourself might seem attractive if you know you’re innocent or watch Law & Order and want to save money, but I promise it can only hurt you and cost you far more in the long run.

I have spent years studying and working right here in Annapolis to help people like you so you don’t have to do it alone. If you’ve been accused of something like domestic violence, assault, drunk driving, or any other serious crime either here or in Ellicott City, don’t wait to get me started on your case. Phone Drew Cochran, Attorney at Law, today or complete my contact form (even if you’re in custody; I am happy to come to you) and I will gladly answer any and all questions as we get started.

Just remember — Keep Calm, and Call Drew.