By Amaka Ezeno, MCLArb,

According to Merriam Webster Dictionary, intoxication is the condition of having physical or mental control markedly diminished by the effects of alcohol or drugs while Cambridge Dictionary defined it as the condition of having lost some control of your actions or behaviour under the influence of a drug.

Intoxication occurs long before someone passes out. It is proved that each person responds differently to the effects of alcohol based on mood, setting, physical health, and tolerance. Intoxication is the point at which alcohol depresses the central nervous system so that mood and physical and mental abilities are noticeably changed.

The legal definition of intoxication is a Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) of .08.

Tolerance is completely unrelated to a person’s BAC. BAC is the amount of alcohol in one’s system based on weight, number of drinks, and the period of time during which alcohol is consumed.

According to the research by the University of Notre Dame, it is suggested that a person should not exceed a BAC of .056, as this is the point where the positive, relaxed, euphoric effects of alcohol are experienced. When a BAC of .056 is exceeded, the negative, depressant effects of alcohol will then take place.

A BAC of .06 – .10 is considered the point of diminishing returns. Typically, a person at this BAC will experience the following:

*IMPAIRED judgment, inappropriate behavior (such as drinking competitively or annoying others)

*Impaired coordination (stumbling, swaying, staggering, or loss of fine motor skills, distance acuity, or glare recovery)

Slurred speech

*Diminished senses (speaks louder, cannot hear, as well as normal vision is not as clear, glassy, unfocused eyes)

Slowed mental processing (can only do one task at a time, forgetting things, lighting more than one cigarette at a time, or losing their train of thought, cannot listen well, follow conversations well, or understand what others are saying)

*Intensified emotions (overly friendly, laughing intensely, displaying mood swings)

*Lowered inhibitions

Some people may become significantly more affected at lower BACs, whereas others at similar BACs may not appear to show symptoms due to developed tolerance. There are however no absolutes.

The principle of law is that prima facie, intoxication is not a defence if it is self induced being that Section 29(1) of the Criminal Code clearly provides that except in certain cases, intoxication shall not constitute a defence to any criminal charge, while Section 29(2) of the Criminal Code specifies such cases where intoxication shall be a defence

“if the accused person at the time of the act or omission complained of did not know that such act or omission was wrong or did not know what he was doing and the state of intoxication was caused without his consent by the malicious or negligent act of another person or that by reason of the intoxication he was temporarily insane at the time of such act or omission as was held in the cases of Attorney-General of Northern Ireland v. Gallagher (1963) AC 349; Inyang v. The State (1973) 1 NMLR 22 and Okunu v. The State (1977) 3 SC 151 at 161.

In the case of Imo v. The State reported in (1991) LPELR-1499 (SC), the court per WALI ,J.S.C ( Pp. 17-18, paras. F-B ) held inter alia:

“Does the defence avail him? The answer is to be found in S.29 of the Criminal Code. The issue is further dealt with in DPP. v. Majewski (1976) 2 ALL E.R. 142. In the first place, unless the offence was one which requires proof of a specific intent or ulterior intent, it was (sic) no defence to a criminal charge that by reason of self-induced intoxication, the accused did not intend to do the act alleged to constitute the offence.

Under S.29(2)(a) of the Criminal Code, unless the accused’s state of intoxication was induced by the malicious or negligent act of another, the defence is not available. It is further provided under S.29(2)(b) of the Criminal Code that such defence does not avail him if the intoxication did not give rise to temporary insanity or otherwise at the time of killing.”

Intoxication which resulted in mental oblivion would not excuse criminal responsibility unless it fell within Section 52 of the Code which provides that :-“Nothing is an offence which is done by a person who, at the time of doing it is by reason of intoxication caused by something administered to him without his knowledge or against his will, incapable of knowing the nature of the act, or that he is doing what is either wrong, or contrary to law.”

Nevertheless, the law outlines three circumstances under which intoxication could be a defence. They are:

*if intoxication is caused by the malicious or negligent act(s) of a third party without the consent of the accused

*where the accused was, as a result of intoxication, temporarily or permanently insane at the time of the commission of the offence

*if the intoxication deprived the accused person of the ability to form requisite specific intention to commit the offence in question.

In applying this leg of the defence, a distinction is often drawn between basic intent and specific intent. Specific intent refers to intent required in result crimes while basic intent refers to intent required in crimes where a more general intention will suffice. Although controversial and difficult to apply in practice, this distinction continues to be the basis for the application of that leg of the defence.

So, when you drink to be intoxicated, remember that if you lose your sanity temporarily and you commit an offence, a defence of intoxication will not avail you.