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Alcohol-Related Crimes

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Author: Greg Basham

Last Updated: 6/02/2022

Over the past several decades, alcohol has been increasingly recorded as a recurring factor in a variety of crimes. There are many different ways in which alcohol has been recorded as being involved in a crime, and while the statistics show that crimes caused by alcohol vary in severity, the involvement of alcohol increasing the occurrence of certain crimes should serve as an indication that alcohol can be very dangerous if abused or mishandled. 

While alcohol cannot be solely to blame for a person’s bad decisions, be they intentionally criminal or otherwise, the reality is that alcohol impacts crime not just in DUI and public intoxication, but also in elevated percentages of violent crimes like assault, sexual assault, robberies, and homicide. Drinking excessively causes people to reduce inhibitions, leading to impaired judgment and increasing the risk of behavior becoming violent. This kind of uninhibited behavior is why alcohol-related crimes happen so regularly, as people are not able to keep control of their emotions, or their actions, as competently when they aren’t sober. 

1. Homicide

Alcohol has been cited as a factor in more homicides than such black market drugs like cocaine and heroin. While the general public might not see alcohol as being half as dangerous as those substances, and while in moderation it isn’t, about 40% of convicted murderers have been recorded as using alcohol before or during the crime. The mind-altering effects of alcohol make it such a dangerous substance to use when a person is already angry, or in a position where they might make a compromising decision. Additionally, homicides caused by drinking and driving account for a substantial percentage.

Violence can be instigated by drinking heavily, so a person can make a reckless decisions they wouldn’t otherwise make when they are drinking alcohol. Sometimes, homicides can happen by accident, and even in such instances, the full brunt of the law falls on the perpetrator. This is why it is imperative to drink responsibly and never operate machinery when drinking. Serious jail time can be the consequence, as well as other extreme penalties. 

2. Sexual Assault

Sexual assault is a sexual act that occurs when one individual forces themselves onto another without consent. Sexual assault can happen in a variety of instances and settings, but regardless of a particular circumstance, alcohol has been recorded as an influential factor in a large percentage of sexual assaults. Nearly 40% of sexual assaults have been recorded as having alcohol involved in some capacity, and due to the uninhibited nature of alcohol, that should come as no surprise. That is not to say that alcohol should be blamed for a person’s decision to sexually assault someone else. Violent crimes of such a nature should never be excused by the influence of drinking alcohol.

However, it should be noted that drinking intensifies aggressive behavior, leads to blackouts, and can even lead to overintoxification, when a victim is incapable of giving consent. In either case, alcohol can play the deciding factor in whether or not someone might fall into a compromising situation, and fall victim to sexual assault, or whether or not a person will commit sexual assault, because they have had enough to drink to make a reckless, violent decision.

Again, this is not to say that drinking alcohol is the cause of sexual abuse, but the person at fault might not have made the wrong decision if alcohol were not involved. Extreme penalties can be the outcome, as well as jail time. 

3. Aggravated Assault

Aggravated assault arises when an individual bodily harms another individual, knowingly, recklessly, and willingly aiming to hurt the other person. In many cases of aggravated assault alcohol plays a key role. This is because of the same factor as described above; alcohol is a mind alterer that can bring up extreme emotions such as violence and anger in an individual. Impaired judgment, which leads to poor decisions, results in hostility and aggression, causing a person to quickly become dangerous.

Upwards of 30% of all aggravated assaults recorded list alcohol as a key contributor, and because aggravated assault tends to result in causing physical injury, the individual who commits the violence is not only at risk of conviction, and further legal recourse, but that person can also hurt themselves while committing aggravated assault. Jail time, heavy fines, and other serious outcomes can be the result of an aggravated assault conviction. 

4. Child Abuse

Alcohol consumption has been tied to a variety of stressors that people experience such as financial instability, professional instability, depression, anxiety, and other severe mental illnesses. When a parent is experiencing these stressors, they might turn to alcohol as a reprieve from these emotions. However, as studies show, alcohol is not proven to reduce the effects of stress, but rather, it can lead to addiction.

Alcoholism can become very dangerous in this regard, as research depicts a link between parents who have developed alcoholism and the risk of abuse and neglect. There are many examples of child abusers citing the influence of alcohol during the moment they committed the crime, and again, one of the reasons this occurs is down to the fact that alcohol alters the mind and has a propensity to increase emotions like anger, frustration, and disappointment. When these emotions reach a head, it is common for someone who’s drunk to take out their frustration on the people around them, especially children, who may not understand or have the ability to defend themselves against an adult. Child abuse can result in losing custody, serious fines, and jail time. 

5. Robbery

Since alcohol clouds a person’s judgments and can hamper their ability to make smart decisions, robberies are another crime that can be the result of drinking, or at least, that can be influenced by the mind-altering effects of alcohol.

The addictive nature of alcohol can cause someone to steal alcohol, or can cause them to experience a heightened sense of themselves, to the point of believing that they can pull up dangerous crimes, like robbery. Drinking alcohol heavily can also lead to unfortunate life circumstances, which in turn may cause people to become desperate, making theft and robbery appear to be measures that have to be taken. 

6. Intimate Partner Violence

Also known as domestic violence, intimate partner violence occurs when a person abuses their significant other psychologically, physically, and/or sexually. It has been recorded that upwards of 55% of individuals who have been convicted of intimate partner violence drank alcohol during or before the moment when the violence happened. Such a significant percentage can not be ignored. Alcohol impairs the mind, making it difficult for a person in a relationship who may be arguing with a spouse or partner to do so amicably.

Heavy drinking, especially, has a propensity to make family problems such as infidelity or childcare issues far more aggravated, which can lead to dramatic and even violent encounters. Children who witness intimate partner violence have been known to develop drinking habits more frequently than those who do not, and also people who are abused tend to pick up the habit of drinking as well. This is why alcohol-related intimate partner violence is so dangerous, as it does not just affect the individual responsible for committing the abuse, but it can lead to a destructive relationship with alcohol for all of those involved.

Additionally, the legal penalties can be severe for intimate partner violence, and it is possible to lose one’s family because of an uncontrollable, toxic relationship with alcohol. 

What Is the Most Common Crime Associated With Alcohol Use?

While there are many crimes, as described above, that are associated with alcohol use, the most common crime that is associated with alcohol use is intimate partner violence. Approximately 60% of the cases of intimate partner violence are involved with alcohol abuse. If someone is in a relationship with an individual and drinking all the time then the likelihood of intimate partner violence increases more so than when two people are in a strained relationship but neither person drinks heavily. 

How Does Alcohol Affect Crime?

Alcohol affects crime in several ways because drinking excessively leads to lowered inhibitions, the impairment of a person’s judgment, and an increase in aggressive behaviors. People who might not otherwise commit a crime may find themselves more likely to commit crimes because they are drinking and their mind is in an altered state. Additionally, drinking alcohol heavily leads to alcoholism which can leave people in a desperate state mentally and emotionally. This kind of desperation sometimes results in acts of violence and crimes, as people have to turn to criminality because they feel they have no other way to survive. This is one reason why robberies are sometimes associated with drinking alcohol. 

How to Treat Alcohol Addiction? 

Treating alcohol addiction can take place in several ways, with inpatient or outpatient rehabilitation, counseling, and consulting with medical professionals. While it is not an easy process, detoxing from alcohol, and then embarking on the recovery process, is an incredibly beneficial process.

People who have suffered for a long time from alcoholism can find their lives improved a great deal once the destructive influences of alcohol are removed from their lives. When it comes to avoiding violent crimes, treating an alcohol addiction can increase a person’s chances of avoiding criminality and living a healthy, safe, law-abiding life. 

What Percentage of Crimes are Alcohol-Related?

Unfortunately, alcohol is a factor in around 40% of all violent crime that occurs today. While the percentage varies outside of the United States, and around the world it is a factor that affects individuals whether they are culprits, and consumed alcohol, or if they were victims of a person who drank and committed crimes. All in all, alcohol is related to too many crimes for anyone to consider it to be coincidental.

Alcohol is dangerous if used in the wrong hands, and its addictive qualities, as well as those which are mind-altering, can lead to a person committing crimes they may not have otherwise committed. 

Is Underage Drinking a Felony? 

Underage drinking laws range in severity from state to state, however, it is not a felony to consume or purchase alcohol when underaged. Fines are handed out, as well as license suspensions for those applicable, but underage drinking is not a felony.

That said, it is a felony to be caught by law enforcement in the possession of a falsified form of identification, which tends to be commonplace for individuals underage attempting to purchase alcohol or enter certain establishments where alcohol is served.

In any case, although underage drinking is not a felony, many crimes can occur when a person is under the influence of alcohol, and that is one reason why alcohol is not recommended for individuals under the age of 21 years old, as younger people tend to make more reckless decisions than those people who are more experienced and more mature. 

Is Alcohol the Main Cause of Crime? 

Alcohol is not the main cause of crime, there are too many factors and too many crimes that occur to label alcohol as the definitive cause. However, it is a contributing factor, that much is true. Too many crimes are related to alcohol for alcohol to be ignored completely as a relevant cause.