Section 33.1 of Canada’s Criminal Code prevents the use of ‘extreme intoxication’ as a defense for crimes such as assault, sexual assault and robbery. It came after a public outcry following the 1994 R. vs. Daviault case in which the defendant, who was accused of sexually assaulting a woman in a wheelchair in a state of intoxication, was acquitted at trial. 

Recently, lawyers in two separate cases representing men who had seriously injured their loved ones after self-induced intoxication, argued that Section 33.1 was unconstitutional. In these cases, the convictions of both defendants were overturned by The Ontario Court of Appeal. Prosecutors appealed the decision to the Supreme Court of Canada, which must now decide Section 33.1’s constitutionality. 

The argument against Section 33.1 is that it infringes on an individual’s right to life, liberty and security on the basis that ‘intentional violence’ and ‘inadvertent violence’ are not the same thing. Detractors have pointed to the usefulness of the law in deterring self-induced extreme intoxication.  

We believe that even if extreme intoxication were to be used as a defense, it would be extremely difficult to prove. Chances of a successful outcome are possible only if the defendant has a competent, aggressive and experienced lawyer by their side.