The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court recently decided a case where the defendant, charged with Operating Under the Influence of Alcohol, consumed alcohol but had also taken prescribed anti-depressant medication; and that she did not know that taking alcohol along with consuming her medication could result in any side effects, such as impairment.
The issue on appeal was whether the trial judge properly instructed the jury on the defense of involuntary intoxication.
In these types of cases, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court held, where a person is charged with OUI / DUI and there is evidence of both the voluntary use of alcohol and of prescription medication, the jury should be instructed as follows:
"Where the defendant is charged with Operating Under the Influence of Alcohol, it is immaterial whether the driver is under the influence of intoxicating liquor or other substances. In order to find guilt, the jury need only find that the liquor contributed to the defendant's impairment."
The jury should further be instructed, however, that the defendant in such cases is entitled to an acquittal if the intoxication was caused solely by the prescription medication, taken as prescribed, and the person did not know or have reason to know of the possible side effects of the drug(s) on his/her driving abilities.
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Attorney Lefteris K. Travayiakis may also be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.