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Pathological Intoxication Defense Used by New Jersey DWI Suspect

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A man being accused of DWI in New Jersey, is using a rare legal defense known as “pathological intoxication.”  Eugene Baum Jr., a Dover man, has been accused of drunk driving and killing two teenage pedestrians in Kinnelon almost three years ago.

According to the pathological intoxication defense, someone can have a condition where they regularly become so intoxicated that they have no control over their alcohol or drug addictions and are unaware of their actions.

Baum’s DWI defense attorney claims that Baum had been hospitalized three times before the fatal accident two years ago for alcoholism.  On the evening of the crash, he was operating as if he was on “autopilot” and was oblivious to his actions.  His attorney went on to describe Baum as “a sick individual who suffers from a medical condition of pathological intoxication.”

The attorney from the New Jersey Crime Victims’ Law Center feels that Baum’s defense is just a gimmick and said the only time you see such a defense is on a television show, such as Law and Order.

John Kip Cornwell, an associate dean and professor of law at Seton Hall Law School, likened Baum’s pathological intoxication defense to an insanity defense. 

“It’s a very rare defense.  He’s trying to thread a needle that would link all of these things together,” said Cornwell.

Baum has been charged with two counts of first-degree aggravated manslaughter in the April 20, 2006 deaths of Mayada Jafar of Kinnelon, 15, and Athear Jafar of Jefferson, 16.  When Baum was arrested for DWI, his blood-alcohol level was 0.305 percent, almost four times higher than New Jersey’s legal limit of 0.08 percent.

The pathological intoxication claim may be allowed, as involuntary intoxication is not prohibited as a defense. 

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