Many people use alcohol as a reason to excuse or regret a past behavior. This is especially common with sexual activities. Often, strangers, acquaintances, or romantic partners drink alcohol prior to engaging in sexual activity. This can make the situation more confusing if one party later claims they were sexually assaulted.
Our Fresno sex crimes defense attorneys explain what everyone should know about the connection between alcohol, sexual assault, and criminal charges.
Alcohol Effects on the Mind and Body
First, it’s important to understand how being under the influence of alcohol can impact one’s decisions and actions.
After consuming alcohol, one might:
- Become more impulsive
- Become more open socially
- Become more relaxed
- Become more confident
- Experience greater sexual desire
These are all factors that could lead someone to engage in sexual activity while they are under the influence. On the contrary, there are some negative side effects of alcohol that one might experience as well. This includes things like aggression, irritability, or lack of impulse control leading to irresponsible behavior. The way that alcohol affects the consumer is unique for everyone. Still, all of these behavioral and mental effects could be referenced in a future sexual assault case.
The Confusion of Consent
A key component for sexual assault is consent. If one party did not consent to sexual activity, the other participant could be held criminally responsible for sexual assault. However, consent can also be confusing or misunderstood when under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
The definition of consent involves both parties clearly and verbally stating that they want to engage in intimate activities. Although this is what is taught to many, most sexual interactions do not involve this outward expression of consent; oftentimes, it is contextual. This is what can lead to confusion and, potentially, trouble if one party later claims they did not want to engage in the activity, despite showing every sign that they did.
How Being Drunk Can Affect a Criminal Sexual Assault Case
If the defendant was intoxicated at the time of the alleged offense, how can this affect criminal proceedings?
Generally, being under the influence at the time of an alleged crime is not a defense. If the defendant voluntarily consumed alcohol prior to the events, then they are still responsible for the behavior. The only time this might be different is if the defendant was involuntarily intoxicated, such as by a drug being slipped into their drink without their knowledge. In short, individuals may still be held criminally responsible if they were under the influence at the time of the offense.
If the alleged victim was under the influence, it can have impacts on the case. First, they may say that their intoxication alone was reason enough to why they could not give consent. This is the most common argument. However, the defense may also use the alleged victim’s intoxication to prove why the defendant is not guilty of a crime. They may state that the victim gave consent, all actions that occurred were consensual, but they later regretted it and are using their alcohol impairment as an excuse.The defense may also state that the victim’s impairment at the time has led them to incorrectly recall the details of the interactions.
However, the defense must be careful when acknowledging the alleged victim’s impairment, as they don’t want to accidentally make it seem as if the victim was so intoxicated that they could not consent. In California, someone who is incapacitated cannot legally give affirmative consent.
Sex Crimes Defense in Fresno
If you have recently been accused of sexual assault after what you believed to be consensual activity, contact Schweitzer & Davidian. These situations occur all too often, and we want to protect you from the harsh consequences of a conviction that you do not deserve. Share the details of your situation with our defense attorneys today; call (559) 206-2322 to schedule a case consultation.