Under limited circumstances, being drunk or drugged can be a defense to a crime in Illinois.

Intoxication is only a defense when 1) it was involuntarily produced and 2) it deprived you of the substantial capacity to either appreciate the criminality of your conduct or conform your conduct to the law.

Intoxication may be involuntary where it is produced by fraud, artifice or deceit. If someone slipped drugs into your punch, you might not be responsible for what happens next. Intoxication also includes the unexpected or unwarned side effects of prescribed medication. For example, a doctor prescribes an antidepressant without warning you that it can cause sleep walking. In one Illinois case, the court held a defendant was entitled to have his intoxication defense reviewed by the jury where he had killed his wife and her lover after having taken Zoloft. People v Hari. But even when involuntary, your intoxication must deprive you of all reason. You can’t use intoxication as a defense if you otherwise knew what you were doing.

Legal intoxication should not be confused with diminished capacity, a defense no longer available in Illinois. The fact you committed the crime when you voluntarily became too drunk or drugged to think straight will not excuse your conduct.

Because the defendant has the burden of proving the intoxication defense, it is critical to present the most compelling evidence possible. A criminal law attorney can review your case to determine if the defense applies and how best to prove it.

If you have questions about this or another related Illinois criminal or traffic matter, please contact Matt Keenan at 847-568-0160 or email

(Besides Skokie, Matt Keenan also serves the communities of Arlington Heights, Chicago, Deerfield, Des Plaines, Evanston, Glenview, Morton Grove, Mount Prospect, Niles, Northbrook, Park Ridge, Rolling Meadows, Wilmette and Winnetka.).

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