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How Alcohol Plays Into Violent Crime


New information has surfaced regarding the results of toxicology tests of both the suspect and victims in a shooting that took place earlier this year at Northern Arizona University. The tests show that while the wounded victims both had blood alcohol levels that exceed the legal amount for driving, the suspect had no trace of drugs or alcohol in his system.

Many are speculating on how this information will play into the case. Some legal defense experts are saying that this will bolster the suspect’s self-defense claim. The general thought is that the suspect may be justified in his actions based on the fact that the victims, who the suspect claims were attacking him, were drunk.

A situation like this brings up questions as to how much and how often drugs and alcohol play into violent crimes. We know based on reports from prisons that a majority of our nation’s prison population abuse alcohol or drugs. Statistics show that nearly 50% of jail and prison inmates are clinically addicted to a substance and approximately 60% of suspects test positive for illegal drugs at the time of arrest.

According to the Department of Justice, alcohol is a factor in 40% of all violent crimes these days. Most convicted offenders who are in jail have reported that they were drinking when they committed their crime.

The report from the Department of Justice also shows that alcohol, more than any other illegal drug, is found to be closely related to violent crimes such as murder, rape, assault and child and spousal abuse. Close to half of all homicides and assault crimes are committed when the offender, the victim or both were drinking. In fact, alcohol is often a factor in violent crimes when both the suspect and the victim know each other.

DUI crimes definitely do not help with these statistics. Drinking alcohol and driving is shown to be the number one cause of death, injury and disability of young people under the age of 21. In Arizona, over half of driving deaths involve alcohol in one way or another.

Going back to the NAU shooter case, alcohol can obviously have an impact on the outcome of a trial of a violent crime. Both prosecutors and defenders will look closely at the evidence of any violent crime case, including the involvement of alcohol and use that to their clients’ benefit. In the NAU case, the fact that the victims all showed high levels of alcohol in their system while the suspect did not could definitely come into play when a jury hears the case.

As we head further into the 2015 holiday season full of family gatherings and parties, we hope that you will choose to be responsible with alcohol. Hopefully, having some insight into how alcohol can lead to a violent crime will remind you to stay in control.

If you or a family member is involved in a violent or alcohol related crime, be sure to call the office of Naegle & Crider as soon as possible at 480-245-5550.

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