New York Intoxication Defense – Defendant in Assault Case Successfully Argues Jury Should Have Considered Intoxication When Deciding Guilty Verdict

In a recent New York Criminal Assault case which was appealed to the New York Appellate Division, the defendant asked for his guilty conviction to be reversed. Originally, the defendant was found guilty of assault in the second degree after an altercation in a bar one evening. On appeal, he argued that the court should have given the jury the option of deciding that he did not have the necessary guilty intent because he was intoxicated, and his judgment was clouded by alcohol. Although, voluntary intoxication is generally not a defense in New York, Penal Law sec 15.25 makes clear that evidence of intoxication can be used to negate an element of  a crime, such as intent.  The court ultimately agreed with the defendant and reversed the judgment.

Facts of the Case

According to the opinion, the defendant in this case walked into a bar one evening holding a bottle of Heineken beer. He interacted with other patrons of the bar, and witnesses later described his behavior as “loud, obnoxious, and argumentative.” At one point, the bartender asked the defendant if he had a designated driver.

In an unclear string of events that followed, the defendant asked another individual to step outside. At this point, the defendant allegedly assaulted the victim, and he was later charged with assault in the second degree. At trial, the jury found the defendant guilty as charged.

The Decision

The defendant promptly appealed. His main argument for the higher court was that the lower court should have instructed the jury that they could have changed the verdict based on whether they thought there was alcohol involved in the incident. According to the defendant, the amount of alcohol in his system greatly impaired his ability to think clearly. He did not intend to commit the assault in question, and the jury should have taken this fact into consideration when deciding whether he was guilty. If the jury had found that he did not have the intent to commit the crime, said the defendant, his verdict and sentence would have been different.

The court examined the evidence and agreed with the defendant. There was sufficient evidence, said the court, for a reasonable person to conclude that the defendant had been intoxicated when he committed the offense — witnesses at trial had established that the defendant appeared intoxicated when he came into the bar. The trial court should have at least instructed the jury that alcohol use can affect a guilty individual’s level of intent, letting them decide for themselves whether the defendant intentionally assaulted the victim or whether the assault was more due to the alcohol in his body.

The court reversed the original judgment and ordered the lower court to conduct a new trial.

Are You Facing Assault Charges in the State of New York?

At Tilem & Associates, we carefully consider the facts of every case before us so that we can guarantee each client the best representation possible. We believe that all defendants deserve an informed, dedicated, aggressive defense attorney, especially when there is so much on the line. If you are facing criminal charges in New York and have not yet decided how to move forward, we are only one call away: you can reach us for a free and confidential consultation at 877-377-8666.


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