Criminal Law

Criminal Defenses: General Overview

A person who has been charged with a crime is often referred to as a defendant. The person that attempts to prove the charges is called the prosecutor. A defendant has many options when charged with a crime. A defendant can negotiate a plea with the prosecutor or can stay quiet and make the prosecutor prove its case. During the process, the defendant can challenge the weight and sufficiency of the evidence that is being offered by the prosecution. The defendant can take a more active approach by offering defenses against the charges.

When to Raise the Defenses

Defense attorneys can use many different arguments to protect the defendant's rights and to make the prosecution prove its case. It is important that the defense attorney raise the various defenses at the proper time. A defense attorney can discuss available defenses before any charges are brought, which could lead to the prosecution to pursue lesser charges or to not even bring any charges at all.

Defenses can be raised at several points on the timeline of a case. Some defenses may be presented to the grand jury, some are presented at pre-trial and others aren't raised until the trial itself. The time to raise a defense is a strategic matter and can have a significant impact on the outcome of a case.

Common Defenses in Criminal Cases

There are defenses when the defendant claims that the facts alleged by the prosecution are incorrect or untrue. This type of defense doesn't require the defendant to produce any evidence and the burden is on the prosecution to prove that the defendant is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

On the other hand, there are affirmative defenses, which admit the factual allegations, but excuse the defendant's conduct that would otherwise be unlawful. These defenses require the defendant to produce evidence to support them. Some common affirmative defenses include:

  • Alibi
  • Duress
  • Entrapment
  • Impossibility
  • Intoxication
  • Insanity
  • Justification
  • Self-defense
  • Statute of limitations

Questions for Your Attorney

  • How much experience do you have in defending the type of crime with which I am charged?
  • What is the strategy in the timing of raising the defenses? Why not raise them all in the beginning to try and make the charges go away?
  • How long does the State have to bring charges against me?
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This article was verified by:
Christopher Largey | April 24, 2015
481 E. Highway 50, Suite 201
(352) 344-1882 View Profile

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