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Judges refuse to create another intoxication defense

January 19, 2012

The Indiana Court of Appeals rejected a man’s argument that he should be allowed to use intoxication as a defense to his criminal charges because the prescription medication that caused his strange behavior was taken for valid medical purposes.

Tommy Alfrey, who has multiple health problems, had valid prescriptions for Oxycontin and Oxycodone to help manage pain. He appeals his convictions in three separate matters. Alfrey’s actions led to convictions of felony theft and residential entry, among other convictions, and to his probation being revoked.

While taking his prescribed drugs, Alfrey was acting strange and ended up breaking into an apartment and stealing pudding. In another incident, he entered a neighbor’s home and thought he was supposed to be there to perform maintenance requested by Alfrey’s landlord. The homeowner said Alfrey was mumbling but did leave her home when asked.

After he was convicted of the two residential entry incidents, the trial court revoked his probation.

He appealed in Tommy D. Alfrey v. State of Indiana, No. 54A01-1104-CR-169, claiming the trial court’s instruction regarding the defense of intoxication constituted fundamental error. He argued that the defense has “its roots in drunkenness” and doesn’t apply to prescription medications taken for medical purposes. Indiana Code 35-41-3-5 establishes only two circumstances in which intoxication may be used as a defense: if the intoxication resulted from the introduction of a substance into the body without consent or when the person didn’t know the substance might cause intoxication.

Alfrey voluntarily took the medication that caused his intoxication and knew it could cause impairment, so the judges declined to create a third exception. The trial court’s instructions were consistent with the law.

 

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