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Involuntary Intoxication Defense

The involuntary intoxication defense can arise under a number of circumstances under Florida law when a person is exposed to an intoxicating or controlled substance without their knowledge or consent.

The defense usually applies when a person unknowingly takes the wrong medicine by mistake, but it might also apply to DUI cases involving alcohol. For example, a rare medical condition known as auto-brewery syndrome causes the body’s digestive system to produce ethanol through endogenous fermentation. For a person suffering from auto-brewery syndrome, the intoxication would be involuntary.

In Carter v. State, 710 So.2d 110 (Fla. 4th DCA 1998), the appellate court found that the involuntary intoxication defense applied to DUI cases. In Carter, the conviction was reversed and the case was remanded for a new trial because of the failure to instruct the jury on the involuntary intoxication defense. The Carter case involved evidence that the defendant unknowingly took the wrong medicine through the fault of another person.

Likewise, in Devers-Lopez v. State, 710 So.2d 720 (Fla. 4th DCA 1998), Florida’s Fourth District Court of Appeals found the involuntary intoxication defense applicable to a DUI case. In that case, a woman arrested for DUI testified that she mistakenly took her husband’s sleeping medication instead of her lawfully prescribed dose of Valium. After accidentally taking the sleeping medication, the woman drove and was subsequently arrested for DUI.

The Florida appellate court reasoned in the Devers-Lopez case, that because the prosecutor charged the woman with driving under the influence of alcohol or sleeping medication, she was entitled to a jury instruction on the involuntary intoxication defense based on her testimony that she had not knowingly ingested the sleeping medication.

Contact an experienced DUI Defense Attorney in Hillsborough County, FL, to discuss any DUI defense for involuntary intoxication.

This article was last updated on Thursday, December 1, 2022.