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People v. Mion.

2023 COA 110. No. 21CA1230. Affirmative Defenses—Involuntary Intoxication.

November 22, 2023

Mion was charged with aggravated robbery, criminal mischief, and felony menacing based on an encounter he had with security guards who found Mion sleeping one night on the grounds of the Denver City and County Building. Mion’s defense was based on his claim that, before he committed the crimes at issue, he smoked a joint that he thought contained only marijuana but actually contained a stimulant that deprived him of the capacity to conform his conduct to legal requirements. Before trial, Mion endorsed the affirmative defense of involuntary intoxication. During the jury instruction conference, Mion’s counsel argued that Mion was entitled to assert the affirmative defense of involuntary intoxication based on his description of his past drug use, his experiences regarding the effects of those drugs, and the very different effects he experienced smoking a joint before the alleged crimes. The trial court refused Mion’s requested involuntary intoxication instruction. The jury found Mion guilty of robbery, criminal mischief, and misdemeanor menacing, and the trial court sentenced him to 40 months in community corrections.

On appeal, Mion argued that the trial court erred by not instructing the jury on his affirmative defense of involuntary intoxication. Deciding an issue of first impression in Colorado, the court of appeals determined that the type of involuntary intoxication claim that Mion raised is legally cognizable under the involuntary intoxication statute. The court held that the affirmative defense of involuntary intoxication is legally cognizable when (1) a defendant knowingly ingests what he believes to be a particular intoxicant; (2) in so doing, he unknowingly ingests a different intoxicant; and (3) it is the different intoxicant that deprives him of the capacity to conform his conduct to requirements of law. Here, this was the essence of Mion’s involuntary intoxication claim, so his defense was legally cognizable. Further, the circumstantial evidence as a whole was sufficient for Mion to meet the low threshold entitling him to a jury instruction on involuntary intoxication. Accordingly, the trial court erred, and the error was not harmless because the jury could have reasonably concluded that the prosecution didn’t disprove the affirmative defense of involuntary intoxication beyond a reasonable doubt.

The judgment was reversed and the case was remanded for a new trial.

Official Colorado Court of Appeals proceedings can be found at the Colorado Court of Appeals website.

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