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Does Hawaii Law Permit the Insanity Defense for Crimes Committed under the Influence of Drugs?

Without a doubt, many people lose the ability to make reasonable judgments when under the influence of intoxicating substances ranging from alcohol to hallucinogenic drugs. Poor judgment can cause drug users to commit serious felony crimes - even murder. In spite of the parallels between intoxication and insanity, Hawaii law has only limited provisions for allowing the insanity defense when alcohol or drugs contribute to the commission of criminal acts. 

Hawaii statutes do provide for the following circumstances in which the insanity defense applies to intoxication:

  • Nonself-induced intoxication can be used when the defendant did not knowingly use intoxicants - for example, if another person drugged a drink at a party without the defendant's knowledge.
  • Pathological intoxication can provide a potential defense if defendants become excessively intoxicated to the degree to which they essentially become unaware that they are breaking the law.

Criminal offenses caused by nonself-induced intoxication stand a reasonable likelihood of acquittal. However, according to a report issued by the Hawaii Legislative Reference Bureau, after conviction of crimes involving self-induced intoxication, appeals are rarely successful.

While a full acquittal may not be a viable option in these cases, skilled criminal defense lawyers with experience in drug crimes can potentially cite drug use as a mitigating factor to negotiate reduced charges or reduced sentencing. A defense attorney who also has a background in criminal prosecution can often develop an effective plea bargain.

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  • HSBA Hawaii State Bar Association
  • Judiciary State Of Hawaii
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  • United States District Court, Northern District of California
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