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Why do some people specifically hurt the ones they claim to love? It’s a question that has been plaguing those who deal with both victims and perpetrators of domestic violence for years.


Well, a new study from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville has unearthed some interesting results regarding the link between substance abuse and domestic violence. The study found a strong correlation between the use of alcohol and instances of domestic abuse.


Researchers also looked at how marijuana use related to domestic violence. The study found that men under the influence of alcohol were more likely to perpetrate psychological, physical, or sexual aggression toward their partners than men under the influence of marijuana.


Women were also more likely to become physically and psychologically aggressive under the influence of alcohol. Interestingly, though, unlike men they were also more likely to be psychologically aggressive under the influence of marijuana.


Two of the studies conducted by the University of Tennessee researchers included male and female college students who were couples and at least 18 years old. The couples had been a relationship for at least a month that involved two days a week of face-to-face contact, and had consumed alcohol at least once in the previous month. The subjects completed an online diary once a day for 90 days.


The study of male partners found that the odds of psychological, physical, and sexual violence increased when they used alcohol. Not only did the likelihood of both kinds of abuse increase on days when alcoholic drinks were consumed, but also with each drink that was consumed. The odds of psychological abuse specifically, though, increased only on days when five or more drinks were consumed.


“I think it is too early to make definitive conclusions regarding the role of marijuana and intimate partner violence perpetration, as the research in this area is quite young and, to date, studies have provided conflicting evidence regarding its role in increasing the odds for violence,” said UT psychology professor Gregory Stuart. “However, we now have numerous studies suggesting alcohol use does increase the odds for violence between partners.”


The (Unsurprising) Results


Denver Domestic Violence Attorney


The results of the study may not be surprising to many—especially the link between alcohol and domestic abuse.


Alcohol is a factor in a large percentage of all types of violent crimes.  In fact, recent statistics suggest alcohol is present in 40% of violent crimes, and roughly 35% percent of convicted offenders today were drunk at the time of their crime. Numerous studies have linked violent behavior to alcohol consumption.

Statistics also back up the assertion that alcohol is connected to domestic violence. 92% of domestic abuse perpetrators reported drinking or abusing drugs on the day of their offense. Most research indicates batterers who attack their partners are under the influence of alcohol 60% to 70% of the time, and on drugs around 15%.


So, does this mean that someone could use being drunk or high as a defense strategy?


The Law’s View on Substance Abuse and Domestic Violence


Domestic Violence Lawyer Denver


While the link between domestic violence and substance abuse may be murky, the law is very clear on its opinion of using voluntary intoxication as a defense for crimes.


If the law accepted intoxication as a defense in criminal cases, our incarcerated population would be a

great deal smaller. In general, being drunk or high at the time of a crime will not affect your ultimate conviction. Intoxication will only get a criminal of the hook if they somehow became intoxicated by accident—for example, if you committed a crime after being unknowingly dosed with PCP, the law may choose to excuse your behavior.


Particularly in violent cases, voluntary intoxication may reduce culpability a small degree. This means that a judge might consider reducing your sentence or attempting to assign a rehabilitative option in lieu of more specific crimes.  In all likelihood, however, asserting that you were voluntarily intoxicated during a domestic violence incident will have no effect on your sentence.


If you have been charged with a domestic violence related offense, you need to come up with a strong defense. How do you do this? By working with a knowledgeable criminal attorney with a successful track record in domestic violence cases. Not only will he or she know the law inside and out, they will have tried cases in front of local judges and gone up against area prosecutors. In other words, they’ll know what works—something you desperately need at this trying time.


About the Author:


Kimberly Diego is a criminal defense attorney in Denver practicing at The Law Office of Kimberly Diego. She obtained her undergraduate degree from Georgetown University and her law degree at the University of Colorado. She was named one of Super Lawyers’ “Rising Stars of 2012” and “Top 100 Trial Lawyers in Colorado” for 2012 and 2013 by The National Trial Lawyers. Both honors are limited to a small percentage of practicing attorneys in each state.  She has also been recognized for her work in domestic violence cases.



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