If a person had a mental blackout due to a side effect of a medically prescribed drug and assaulted someone, are they technically responsible for their actions, even if they don’t remember?

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If a person had a mental blackout due to a side effect of a medically prescribed drug and assaulted someone, are they technically responsible for their actions, even if they don’t remember?

My mother, who has many mental and physical illnesses, took pills that caused her to black out. As a result, assaulted a family of 5. And despite being imprisoned, she doesn’t remember anything. She completely blacked out. What type of sentencing would they receive? I just want to know how we can help her lessen her sentence.

Asked on August 20, 2019 under Criminal Law, California

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 1 year ago | Contributor

Assuming you can prove with medical testimony (e.g. from treating physicians) all the following--
1) This type of medicine can and does cause blackouts even when taken according to directions--that is, blackouts are a known and possible side effect;
2) Your mother took the medicine properly (did not overdose on it, for example, since if she used it improperly, she is responsible for having done so, like the way someone who drinks and drives is responsible for having misused alcohol before driving); and
3) She had not blacked out from the medicine previously, so that she did not have warning this could happen
--then she should have a complete defense to criminal liability: e.g. "not guilty by reason of (temporary) insanity," or a temporary loss of control in no way her fault. She could avoid any punishment.
A good place to start is by talking to her doctor(s)--you may believe the drug caused the reaction, but your belief is irrelevant; what matters is what medical evidence or science shows. 
Then if there is medical support for your position, consult with a criminal defense attorney about how to best use this information.
 
 
 


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