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Criminal Defense Areas

Practice Areas

Criminal law establishes the classifications of crimes, how guilt or innocence is determined, and the types of punishment or rehabilitation that may be imposed.

Misdemeanors and Felonies - Simple Assault

Family Violence

Aggravated Assault

Robbery & Burglary

DWI

Possession of Controlled Substances

Sexual Assault

Theft

Types of criminal defenses

Common defense strategies for your case

If you’re facing criminal charges you have a number of types of criminal defenses you can use. The best type of defense for you depends on the details of your case, and it may change as your case moves forward.

Basic types of criminal defenses

Whether or not you committed the crime, you have the right to defend yourself against the charges. In general, you and your lawyer will try to show one of these things:

  • You didn’t commit the crime you’ve been accused of.

  • You committed the crime, but special circumstances mean you shouldn’t be held responsible.

  • You committed the crime and should be held responsible, but special circumstances mean your punishment should be lighter than it normally would be.

You have a variety of options for arguing one of these things.

Present an “I didn’t do it” defense

Unless there’s irrefutable evidence against you, simply stating you didn’t do it can be effective. You have two basic strategies:

Present an Alibi

An alibi is a statement saying you were doing something else at the time of the crime. It’s the strongest defense you can have. The best alibi has additional evidence to back it up. For example, a video or receipt time-stamped at or near the time of the crime. A verifiable alibi can convince the prosecutor not to file charges or at least drop them quickly. A witness to your alibi is also useful, but it’s best if the witness is reliable. If not—he or she has a history of lying, for example—the prosecutor may not accept your alibi. You can still use the alibi at trial to introduce doubt into the jurors’ minds, which is your next defense option.

Reasonable doubt

You are considered innocent until proven guilty. The prosecutor has to overcome this presumption to prove your guilt “beyond a reasonable doubt.” You have no obligation to prove your innocence.

Sometimes you can use this to your advantage without needing to present any evidence of your own. You simply argue that the prosecution didn’t prove its case. However, you’ll probably want to present your own evidence to contradict the prosecution’s evidence.

Present an “I did it, but ...” defense

If you can’t realistically claim you didn’t commit the crime, you still have options. You can admit to the act but argue that the circumstances surrounding the crime excuse your actions.

Self-defense

When claiming self defense, you say that while your actions are normally considered a crime, they were reasonable given the situation. It’s a common defense in cases involving physical violence, such as assault or murder.

In general, claiming self defense only works if the other person was the aggressor and your actions were indeed necessary to stop him or her. For example, punching someone who took a swing at you may be reasonable, but continuing to hit a person who is lying still on the ground is not.

Coercion and duress

A duress defense claims somebody used threats (against you or someone else) or force to make you commit the crime. It only works if your situation meets these criteria:

  • The threats were greater than the crime you were forced to commit.

  • Committing the crime was the only way to avoid having the threats carried out.

  • You didn’t put yourself in a situation to be threatened. For example, you can’t use this defense if the person was retaliating for a crime you previously committed against that person.

Intoxication

In some cases, being under the influence of alcohol or drugs can excuse you from some responsibility for your crime. In most cases it can’t completely clear you, because using drugs or alcohol to excess is a voluntary act.

Most states don’t allow this defense. In those that do it’s usually reserved for cases involving specific intent—that is, crimes in which you intended your action to have a specific outcome, like murder. It works because you can claim you were too drunk or high to form intent.

Abandonment and withdrawal

This type of criminal defense argues that you changed your mind before committing the crime. It can work if you notified police before the crime occurred. Otherwise you’ll need other proof you abandoned your plans and those plans did not end up contributing to the crime.

Entrapment

Entrapment means the government set you up to commit the crime. But you’ll have to show you would not have committed a crime without the government’s intervention. This defense is hard to prove, especially if you have a history of similar crimes.

Insanity

Insanity is a rarely used defense that’s also rarely successful. It asserts one of two things:

  • You did not know your actions were wrong.

  • You knew your actions were wrong but were unable to stop yourself.

You’ll need psychiatric evaluation to prove you had severe mental disease at the time of the crime. If successful you’ll be sent to a mental institution.

Violation of the statute of limitations

Sometimes a prosecutor may file charges after the time limit (statute of limitations) for doing so has passed. If this happens, it’s up to you to bring it up, so it’s worth knowing the statute of limitations for your crime.

Legal aid from a private criminal defense attorney

Even if you qualify for a public defender, you may want to see if you can find a way to hire a private criminal defense attorney.

Public defenders are often good lawyers who truly want to help, but they’re also usually over-worked and under-funded. They just don’t have as much time to spend on each case.

Private lawyers, on the other hand, can choose their caseloads. This means they can give you much more personalized attention. And you can interview several to pick the one you feel will best represent your interests.

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