Many of us have done stupid things when we've been drunk.
Some of us might have even done illegal things, like getting behind the wheel of a car and driving.
Many times, we might not have remembered what we did or what motivated us to act as we did. That's what alcohol does.
But being too drunk to know what we're doing is never a legitimate excuse for stupidity or wrongdoing. As long as we drink willingly and aren't drugged or illegally coerced, we alone are responsible for whatever actions we take while under the influence. That's the condition we accept when we decide to drink heavily. And it's how it should be.
But earlier this week, that excuse was successfully used as a criminal defense in the case of a Hudson Falls man, Jeffery Tillman, who was charged with breaking into a Glens Falls home and sexually abusing a 10-year-old girl who was sleeping on a couch inside the house.
The girl said she awoke in the middle of the night to find Tillman fondling her, and when she tried to get away, he held onto her leg, according to police. When the girl's mother discovered Tillman lying next to her frightened daughter, he was passed out so heavily that he didn't respond to her hitting and yelling at him.
Tillman said he didn't remember anything after he visited some bars late last weekend, and he didn't remember breaking into the home or touching the child.
The case was presented to a Warren County grand jury, which on Thursday dismissed the felony charges. All Tillman was ultimately charged with was a misdemeanor count of criminal trespass.
Tillman's lawyer had argued that his client was too intoxicated to have the legally required intent to commit a crime. That's actually a legitimate defense under New York state law — you can be so drunk that you can't form intent to commit a crime. And since intent is often one of the factors the law considers to determine guilt to specific criminal charges, being too intoxicated can actually help you escape prosecution of certain crimes.
It shouldn't matter if the person didn't mean to commit the crime. It shouldn't matter if he's really, really sorry. How many drunk drivers have you seen boo-hooing at their sentencings? It shouldn't matter if Tillman didn't remember what he did. If he committed the crimes that police say he did, whether he intended to or not, he should be punished as if he hadn't touched a drop of alcohol.
The law should be on the side of the victims of these crimes, not on the perpetrators who can't control themselves.
State lawmakers need to change it.