Guide to Criminal Defenses

There are three major defenses to crime in our legal system. They are alibis, justifications, and excuses.
An alibi is a defense where you attempt to prove that you could not be liable for a crime because you were somewhere else when the crime was committed. This is the only defense that is based on the assumption that the defendant is truly innocent. An alibi can be proven in any number of ways. If you are under trial for commission of a crime but there is witness testimony, surveillance footage, or other documentation that conclusively proves you were elsewhere, you will likely get off the hook, criminal defenses.

The other two defenses involve a crime you actually committed but that you might have been justified in doing or had an excuse for. The first of these are justifications. These are crimes that by circumstance justify criminal behavior. Self defense is an example of a justification and it is a perfect defense, which if proven will result in a not guilty verdict. Certain requirements must be met for an action to be considered self defense. First it must be an unprovoked attack. If you kill someone in a fight that you started, you cannot claim self defense. Secondly, danger must be imminent, which means it is coming right now. You must also prove that it was absolutely necessary to use the level of force that you did, and that you used reasonable force. So you wouldn’t be able to claim self defense if someone punched you, and you elevated the level of force by shooting the assailant. You also can only claim self defense if you defended yourself until the threat is gone. If you continue to attack someone who is clearly incapacitated, the self defense justification is no longer valid.

Criminal Defenses

The third legal defense is the excuse. A person claiming an excuse admits their conduct was wrong and the excuse implies that something was wrong in their state of mind. The plea of insanity falls under this category of defenses. This involves proving that the defendant has a mental illness or that they couldn’t control their actions while they committed the crime. This can be very hard to prove and is rarely pled at all. Age can also act as a defense. Children under 7 are presumed to be unable to create criminal intent. From ages 7 to 14, criminal intent is debatable. After that, children are presumed to have criminal intent. Another excuse is duress. This is claiming that you acted under threat of death or serious injury. The threat must be imminent and reasonably real. People caught smuggling drugs or committing robbery can use this defense to explain their actions. Murder is the only crime that cannot be excused by duress.

Involuntary intoxication can also be a defense. If you were slipped something and as a result you began to act irrationally and committed a crime, you can be found innocent since you were not in the right state of mind. Of course this does not apply to crimes committed while under voluntary intoxication.

Entrapment is one of the other types of excuses. This is when law enforcement agents induce you to commit a crime you wouldn’t have otherwise. This usually occurs when a sting operation goes too far. Of course this defense becomes weak if you have been convicted previously for similar crimes, if you were ready and willing to commit the crime or if you showed a high level of criminal expertise.

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With all these defenses, the burden is on you to prove that your actions were excused or justified or that you were not at the scene of the crime.

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