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Criminal Defense Law: The 4 Most Common Criminal Law Defenses

You may have watched numerous shows and movies that are based in the courtroom. Scripted trials are one thing, but what is criminal defense law like in the real world?

Well, this article has the answer. To learn more about common criminal defenses, continue reading the information below.

What Is a Criminal Defense?

Criminal defense is a counter-argument that is used to debate the accuracy of the prosecution’s claims and evidence. The prosecution— also known as the state or the people— is the side that’s working to prove the validity of the criminal charges against the alleged offender.

It’s the prosecution’s duty to prove the crime beyond a reasonable doubt. They are required to prove every element of the with no doubt whatsoever. This is known as the burden of proof.

Here are the most common criminal defenses used during a trial:

1. Self-Defense

A self-defense claim states that the offender admits to the crime, but they did it to protect themselves. These types of claims are used in assaults and murder trials. In situations like this, the defendant contends that the only reason why they hurt or killed the victim was to protect themselves or their family.

If the victim was making threats or using violent force, that’s what led to the crime. Self-defense claims are quite difficult to win. The defense has to prove that there were substantial risks of danger to the defendant and that their crime was indeed justified.

2. Insanity Defense

Insanity defenses work a bit differently.  Instead of the criminal defense attorney trying to combat the prosecution’s case, they allege that the offender did not have a sound mind when the incident occurred. It’s usually because of a mental illness or some other defect that pushed them to their criminal actions.

Insanity claims are difficult to win as well. The criminal defense lawyer is required to prove that the defendant didn’t know right from wrong at the time of the crime. They may also claim that the defendant’s impulse to commit the injustice was irresistible.

In a situation like this, the criminal may have been aware of what they were doing, but was unable to prevent themselves from going forward with their criminal actions.

With insanity defenses, the offender isn’t denying guilt, rather claiming that their actions are the result of insanity. This isn’t a solid defense, and it doesn’t always work. It takes a really good criminal defense law attorney to pull it off.

3. Constitutional Violations

It doesn’t matter if the defendant actually committed the crime or not. Under the US Constitution, criminals are entitled to a fair trial. During a criminal hearing, one of the most common criminal defense law tactics is constitutional violations. These violations are determined by how the defendant was treated when they were arrested and the evidence that’s used against them.

If there is a significant constitutional violation that occurred, it could lead to the dismissal of charges. It could also force the prosecution to pursue a lesser charge. Constitutional violations are strong defenses, so they’re one of the first things that a criminal defense attorney looks for when starting the case.

Below are some of the most common violation defenses used:

  • Not reading the Miranda Rights
  • Not obtaining a warrant
  • Illegally looking for or seizing evidence from the defendant
  • Breaking the chain of custody on the evidence
  • Getting a coerced confession

Sometimes there’s a breakdown in protocol, so constitutional violations are much easier to prove than some of the other defense strategies.

4. Innocence Defense

There are times when the alleged offender will completely deny the crime. However, this scenario isn’t cut and dry. A defendant can’t just testify in their own defense and claim innocence. The prosecution will find witnesses, find evidence, and bring in experts to counteract the offender’s claims. Their job is to convince the jury that there is no way that the defendant couldn’t have committed the crime.

In criminal defense law, the defendant often needs strong, reliable alibi witnesses or proof that another individual actually committed the wrongdoing.

Furthermore, the prosecution still has to prove that the alleged defender is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. The criminal defense attorney disputes the charges, but it’s the prosecution’s duty to fully back up their claims of guilt.

The more evidence that the defense uses to counter the prosecutor’s claims, the easier it is to show the jury that the prosecution cannot prove their case.

How Does a Criminal Defense Lawyer Help Defendants?

The main purpose of hiring a criminal defense lawyer is to avoid the consequences of criminal charges. Defense attorneys use several tactics to get their client out of a tight spot.

Below are some of the primary strategies:

Released from jail: Once an alleged offender is arrested, the primary thing they seek to avoid is jail time. However, they often have to wait in jail while the trial is pending. It’s the attorney’s job to work on their behalf to get them released until the trial begins.

Plea bargains: If there is substantial evidence against the defendant or the consequences of pleading guilty is significant jail time, the next strategy is a plea bargain.

A plea bargain forces the defendant to plead guilty in exchange for a shorter sentence. For instance, if an alleged offender is facing life in prison, they’ll admit guilt for a sentence of 15 to 20 years.

No jail time: Of course the ultimate goal is no jail time at all. A criminal defense attorney must work hard to make this happen.

Criminal Defense Law: Get Legal Counsel

As you can see, criminal defense law is a bit complicated, but it’s designed to provide a fair trial to everyone. As to saying goes, you’re innocent until proven guilty. If you been accused of a crime, seeking the help of an attorney is your best bet.

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