Questions The Court Will Ask If You Use Unconsciousness As A Criminal Defense
Unconsciousness may be a criminal defense because you can only be guilty of acts you commit knowingly. However, that is an oversimplification because there are many factors the court will consider. In particular, these four questions will help the court to decide your fate if you cite unconsciousness as your criminal defense:
Was Your Unconsciousness Genuine?
One of the things the court will examine is the cause of your unconsciousness. It must have a scientific backing, something that expert witnesses can explain to the court. This is necessary to prevent defendants who would use unsubstantiated claims of unconsciousness.
Some of the legally recognized causes of unconsciousness include these three:
- Diseases, such as epilepsy
- Drug abuse
- Physical blows to the head, such as those you can sustain during a physical fight
- Emotional shock (for example, the kind that can be triggered by news of the death of a loved one)
Did Your Actions Contribute?
Another thing the court will consider is whether you contributed to your unconscious state. This is significant because voluntary unconsciousness isn't a criminal defense. For example, you cannot drink yourself into unconsciousness, commit a crime and get away with it; after all, you knew what you were doing. In this case, you may use your alcohol-induced unconsciousness to prove that you did not intend to commit the crime, which may weaken the prosecution's case, but it doesn't make you innocent.
Did You Suspect It?
Unconsciousness can only be a defense if it caught you by surprise. If you are susceptible to unconsciousness, then you shouldn't put yourself into a situation where it may make you commit a crime.
For example, if you know you have uncontrolled epileptic seizures, you shouldn't control dangerous machinery, such as a crane. If you operate a crane despite your health condition, then you cannot use the unconsciousness defense if your seizures strike and you injure other people.
Could You Have Prevented It?
Even if you did not cause the unconsciousness, it's possible that you could have prevented it. Consider an example where you pick up a fight with other people and experience a blow to the head that renders you unconscious. You may not escape from any illegal actions after that because you could have prevented your unconsciousness by not starting a fight.
This is different, say, from a situation in which a car hits you from behind, your head snaps back, and you become temporarily unconscious. In this case, you may defend yourself using your unconsciousness. Contact a lawyer, like Dimeo Law Offices, for more help.