A strong criminal defense requires a detailed working knowledge of statute law. Attorneys are trained to find areas where the prosecution has a weak case and raise reasonable doubt.
For example, if you accidentally spill a man’s beer at a bar and he later charges you with assault, your defense would be that you were defending others and did not have the requisite intent to commit an offense.
In most legal systems, you have the right to defend yourself against any attack. That’s why criminal defense lawyers often use self-defense as a legal argument in assault and battery cases.
To claim self-defense, you must believe that a threat was imminent. This means that the threat is occurring right now and that you must use force to prevent it from causing death or serious bodily harm. For example, if your neighbor is breaking into your car and you slap them, that’s not considered self-defense because the threat is not immediate.
Your response must also be reasonable. This requires you to consider what a normal, non-mentally impaired person would do in the same circumstances. For example, slapping someone who is holding a toy gun may be justified if you believed that the attacker could actually hurt you. This is called imperfect self-defense. It does not excuse your actions, but it does reduce your culpability. In some states, you can even claim self-defense if you kill an assailant that you believed was trying to hurt members of your family or household to whom you owe a duty of protection.
Defendants can challenge the prosecution’s case, arguing that it has failed to meet its burden of proof. The defendant may also claim that there are holes in the evidence, that certain elements of a crime have not been proven, or that the defendant has a justifiable reason for committing the act. A common example of an affirmative defense involves the use of physical force to protect oneself or another. If the defendant can show that he or she used reasonable force in self-defense, then he or she will escape criminal liability.
Other affirmative defenses include duress and entrapment. Duress refers to someone coercing you into committing a crime against your better judgment. It’s important to note that any affirmative defense requires that the defendant prove its elements by a preponderance of the evidence. This is a much lower standard than the beyond a reasonable doubt requirement that applies to standard criminal defenses. For this reason, it’s important that defendants state their intention to raise an affirmative defense early in the process.
There are certain crimes that base culpability on a criminal standard of negligence rather than the malice that is required for other crimes. These include involuntary manslaughter and some homicides. Criminal negligence is when someone ignores a known risk or disregards the life and safety of others.
When your attorney uses a criminal negligence defense, they must show that the harm caused was unforeseeable and you took all reasonable precautions to avoid it. This may involve demonstrating that you were somewhere else at the time of the crime and therefore could not have committed it. This is called an alibi.
Also, your lawyer must demonstrate that you were unaware of any legal duty to take a specific action or precaution. This is because criminal negligence goes beyond bad judgment, carelessness or a momentary loss of focus and requires recklessness. This is a difficult defense to establish. It requires a complete investigation into your case and a thorough presentation of the facts.
Entrapment is an affirmative defense to criminal charges that alleges law enforcement officers coerced the defendant into committing the crime in question. In order to prove entrapment, the defendant must prove that law enforcement agents induced or encouraged him or her to engage in criminal conduct by employing methods of inducement or coercion such as harassment, fraud, threats, or other means that violate basic privacy rights. They must also prove that they were not otherwise predisposed to commit the crime in question.
For example, suppose an undercover police agent poses as a drug dealer to get a potential suspect to sell drugs. The undercover officer harasses and pressures the suspect to make the sale, even after the person says that he or she is no longer involved in drug dealing. This scenario would be considered entrapment under the objective standard of a jury weighing both the nature of the enticement and the defendant’s mental state.