Defenses to Criminal Charges

December 24, 2013 in Freedom of Information

If you are facing criminal charges, you may be wondering what defenses are available to you. An experienced criminal defense attorney can help you understand whether you have a viable defense to the crime with which you have been charged.

As you may already know, a prosecutor must prove that a criminal defendant is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in order to convict a criminal defendant.

During a criminal trial, defendants are given an opportunity to present a defense. There are many different types of defenses, some of which are not listed here. In this post, we will discuss some of the most common defenses that criminal defendants raise.  You should understand though that every client is different and every case is different.  So, while there are many common defenses that cut across different cases, the development of a specific trial defense is dependent on the facts and client in a specific case.

The Defendant Did Not Commit the Act in Question

Many criminal defendants claim that they did not commit the crime charged or were not involved in the act in question. These defenses essentially equate to “I didn’t do it.”

Presumption of Innocence

In the United States justice system, all people accused of a crime are presumed to be innocent until they are convicted. A person can be convicted of a crime only through a jury trial or by pleading guilty.

Because of this principle, the prosecution is required to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant is guilty. The defendant is under no obligation to present a defense. He or she can simply argue that the prosecution failed to prove its case. If the prosecution is unable to convince a jury of the defendant’s guilt, the defendant goes free.

Reasonable Doubt

The burden of proof in criminal cases is heavy and falls on the prosecution. If the prosecution cannot prove that a criminal defendant is guilty “beyond a reasonable doubt,” the defendant must go free. Many criminal defendants argue that reasonable doubt of guilt exists.

Alibi

Presenting an alibi is another common defense to a criminal charge. In presenting an alibi, a defendant claims that he or she was somewhere other than the scene of the crime at the time it was committed.

The Defendant Did Commit the Act in Question, But Has a Defense

Under certain circumstances, a defendant may be able to avoid punishment even if he or she did commit the act upon which criminal charges are based.

Self-Defense/Justification

Many people are familiar with the defense of self-defense. If a defendant is charged with a crime of violence (such as battery, assault, or murder), the defendant may be able to avoid punishment by claiming that he or she acted in self-defense.

Under this defense, a defendant admits that he or she committed the crime. He or she claims that it was justified by the other person’s aggressive or threatening action.

Typically, the defendant must establish that a reasonable person in the same circumstances would think that he or she was under imminent threat of a physical attack. If a reasonable person would believe that he or she was going to be attacked, then that person has the right to use force to prevent the fact.

It is important to understand that an act of self-defense must be reasonable in light of the perceived threat of physical attack. If someone uses too much force in self-defense, he or she may be guilty of a crime.

Insanity

The defense of insanity is based upon the principle that punishment is justified only when a person is capable of controlling his or her behavior and understanding what he or she has done is wrong.

The insanity defense is very complex. A criminal defense attorney can help you better understand the nuances of this defense.

Under the Influence

In some states, defendants who commit crimes while under the influence of drugs or alcohol may be able to avoid punishment for their crimes. In general, however, voluntary intoxication does not excuse or justify criminal actions.

Entrapment

If the government induces a person to commit a crime, he or she may be able to avoid punishment by establishing that the government committed an act of entrapment. It is very difficult to establish that the government committed an act of entrapment.

If you have been charged with a crime, contact a criminal defense attorney right away. An experienced criminal defense attorney can help you understand your rights and assess any defenses you may have to the charged crime or crimes.