The experience of being pressed with criminal charges can not only be stressful but also a very trying time to deal with. Laws related to criminal charges are quite complex. Moreover, each case is unique and has its own set of issues. However, you can save yourself from the ‘guilty’ verdict. In order to convict you of a criminal charge, the prosecutor must prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. You, as a defendant, will get the chance to provide justification. This may result in your acquittal or reduced sentence. This justification is known as defense, and it plays a paramount role in any criminal case. Moreover, a defense acts like a strategic argument that attempts to challenge the validity and the sufficiency of the prosecution’s evidence. Here are six of the most common criminal defenses.
This is one of the most common defenses in which the defendant tries to demonstrate to the judge/ jury that he/she was not the aggressor. Instead he/she was the victim who was trying to save himself/herself from harm and hence, acted accordingly.
This form of defense involves acts of violence or deadly force committed to protect oneself or another person from an attacker. Also, it is predicated on the belief that people have a right to defend themselves from physical injury. In order to prove this defense, there are three main points that a defendant needs to demonstrate:
- The act of self-defense was necessary
- The belief of physical harm was reasonable
- The force used by the defendant was reasonable
Additionally, abuse defense is a specialized version of self-defense. A defendant can use it to prove that he/she had been a victim of physical or mental abuse; and he/she had no other solution but to commit the act of violence in order to escape and protect himself/herself.
2. Insanity Defense
The insanity defense prevents those defendants from getting punished, who are mentally -incapacitated and have no control over their actions. It’s important to understand the definition of the term “insane” according to the courts.
It is based on the MacNaughton rule, which defines insanity as the lack of ability to distinguish the right from the wrong. It is quite difficult to prove this defense, as the defendant needs to undergo extensive psychiatric testing. This can be arduous to deal with. Getting out on an insanity plea doesn't mean the accused goes unpunished. The court will sentence the defendant to a mental institution and quite often the sentence is longer than a prison term would have been.
Another variation of the insanity defense is diminished responsibility or capacity, in which the defendant argues that his/her mental state was not to the point of insanity, but there was some type of defect that impaired his mental function such as extremely low intelligence and post-traumatic stress disorder.
The insanity defense depends majorly upon on the testimony of a psychiatrist, who after examining the defendant, reviewing his/her background, and looking at the case facts, gives his/her opinion.
3. Entrapment Defense
In 1982, John DeLorean became a target of a government sting operation in which he was to receive $24 million if he invested $1.8 million to import cocaine into the U.S. The cash-strapped car maker took the bait and was arrested. But, he was acquitted by a federal judge, who ruled that government agents entrapped the car maker by making him an offer that was impossible to refuse.
This is one of the most well-known examples of a crime where entrapment defense was used. This can be basically defined as a defense in which the government tricks you into committing a crime and then prosecutes you for it. Most common examples of this are cases involving prostitution, drug sales, bribery of public officials, counterfeiting and price controlling. This defense will be unsuccessful if the judge/jury believes that you were predisposed to committing the crime, irrespective of the attempt made by the government to entrap you.
4. Alibi Defense
One of the most common ways to state that you didn’t commit a crime is by proving that you couldn’t have done it. This type of defense basically involves the following:
- You weren’t at the crime scene and were somewhere else when the crime took place
- You were with someone else
By making these arguments, you may be able to create a reasonable doubt of guilt and prove that you are not the perpetrator.
5. Under-the-Influence Defense
Involuntary intoxication doesn’t excuse criminal conduct. However, many defendants defend themselves by claiming that owing to the influence of drugs or alcohol, they weren’t in the correct mental state, thereby leading to the act of violence. This can demonstrate that they weren’t aware of their actions.
Not every state allows this type of defense, though. Additionally, this defense won’t help you win an acquittal. At the most it will help you avail a lesser sentence.
6. Defense of Automatism
Automatism can be best defined as the combination of excuse and exculpation. The defendant uses this form of defense to prove that he/she lacked control over his/her actions, and, therefore, cannot be held responsible. The defendant can state that the lack of control was due to one or more reasons such as:
- Mental disability
- Physical problem
By using this defense, the defendant can argue that the above mentioned reason(s) excuses him/her from liability and frees him/her from culpability for the injuries and damage caused to the other person. A jury could acquit or render a guilty verdict with mitigating sentencing. In a civil case, the liability incurred could be reduced or forgiven if the defendant is found guilty.
Most importantly, it is essential to find a good lawyer, who can help you understand the various aspects and forms of criminal defenses. There are various ways to find a reputable lawyer and one of the most effective ways is online search. If you are looking for a lawyer in Chicago, you can search online for criminal defense attorney Chicago. This will provide you with a list of lawyers based in Chicago. After checking their online rating, you can opt for initial consultation and decide which one is suitable for your case.
Right from arguing that you didn’t commit the crime to stating that you committed the crime but had a legal and a reasonable defense for doing so, there are several criminal defenses that can be presented when defending yourself in court. This may help you avoid potential punishments. By learning more about the above mentioned criminal defenses and their various aspects, you can save yourself from severe legal consequences. Of course, the final decision lies in the hands of the judge or the jury, but there’s a lot you can do to achieve a better outcome for your case.