Many jurisdictions consider driving under the influence a “strict liability” offense. This means that in order for a person to be convicted of driving under the influence, the prosecution need not prove that the person intended to drive drunk. In other words, you can be convicted of driving under the influence even if you did not intend to drive drunk. Generally, the reason for this is that many people drink alcohol, not intending to get drunk, and drive anyways. But what if the person has no intention to drink alcohol at all and ends up getting drunk? How might this happen? The “sober driver” unknowingly drinks from a spike punch bowl. Or, in the case of marijuana, someone ingests a pot brownie honestly thinking that it is a normal brownie and unknowingly gets stoned.
The California jury instruction CALCRIM 3427 states, “A person is involuntarily intoxicated if he or she unknowingly ingested some intoxicating liquor, drug, or other substance, or if his or her intoxication is caused by the force, duress, fraud, or trickery of someone else, for whatever purpose [without the fault on the part of the intoxicated person].” A person who has been involuntary intoxicated cannot be convicted of a crime according to California Penal Code section 24 which states, “All persons are capable of committing crimes except…[p]ersons who committed the act charged without being conscious thereof.”
You will also have to prove that you became intoxicated through no fault of your own. For example, the defense is not available if you intended to drink alcohol, but someone spiked your drink with more alcohol than you knew of. This might also mean that you had no reason to believe that the drink was spiked or that you had no reason to believe you were intoxicated when you decided to drive.
This is very difficult to show.
On a similar note, one California court has held that the mistake of fact defense can be based on involuntary intoxication (People v. Scott (1983) 146 Cal.App.3d 823). The mistake of fact defense can be used if you act under an honest and reasonable mistake of fact and commit a crime. This does not apply if you are mistaken of the law. For example, you cannot use the defense if you mistakenly believe the law prohibited you from driving with a .10 or above instead of .08 or above BAC, and you have a .09 BAC. However, if you honestly and reasonably, but mistakenly believe that you have not ingested any intoxicating substances, you may be able to use the mistake of fact defense.
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