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Criminal Defenses

Alibis: Unlike other major defenses, alibis are based on the claim of actual innocence. The accused party offering an alibi is saying that he or she can produce evidence or witness testimony proving actual absence from the scene of the alleged crime.

Justifications: Defenses based on justifications rely on a claim that the accused party did take certain action now being labeled criminal but had no other choice in order to minimize their own losses or those of someone else.

Justifications include claims of self-defense, defense of others, necessity, the need to resist an arrest reasonably believed to be unlawful, consent and the need to defend one’s home or property from intruders. For self-defense, courts often look to see if the accused person used what is considered reasonable force. Deadly force usually is justified only when one’s own life or that of a family member is being immediately threatened.

Excuses: A defense based on an excuse amounts to the defendant admitting he or she committed the offense but couldn’t help it. Common excuses include insanity, mental incompetence, duress, age, mistake, involuntary intoxication, unconsciousness and diminished capacity. The insanity defense is commonly used, though courts and jurors expect strong evidence to support it.

Procedural Defenses: When defendants offer a procedural defense, they are arguing that either someone in the criminal justice system markedly discriminated against them or that one or more important procedural rules were not followed, thereby denying due process of law, violating a fundamental right. The defendants then seek to be released from any guilt for the acts. Procedural defenses include entrapment, double jeopardy, collateral estoppel, selective prosecution, police fraud, failure to provide a speedy trial and prosecutorial misconduct.

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