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  • The Three Most Common Types Criminal Defense Strategies

    Posted on by JACK MKHITARIAN

    New Mexico Criminal Defense Attorney - New Mexico Criminal Law OfficesTo convict a defendant in a criminal trial, the prosecution must prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the defendant is guilty of the crime for which he or she is charged.

    The defendant, on the other hand, has the right to defend himself and avail himself of the best legal representation available for his defense.

    A criminal defense can be defined as a series of legal arguments, procedures and actions applied towards the defendant’s acquittal or lessening the severity of the punishment he or she will receive if convicted.

    There are three main types of criminal defense strategies:

    • Alibis
    • Justifications
    • Excuses


    An alibi is a type of defense in which the defendant argues that he or she could not have committed the crime because they were not at the scene of the crime when it took place.

    In order for an alibi to be established, the defendant needs to provide proof that he was in another place at the time of the crime.

    For example, if the defendant has witnesses who can attest to the fact that, at that time an assault took place in Chicago, they were having lunch with a friend in Rockford, IL., some 80 miles away, they may have a strong alibi.

    The prosecution will then be charged with providing evidence to the contrary. If it fails to do so, the charges against the defendant might be dismissed.


    Justification refers to a situation where the defendant does not deny that he committed the offense, but states that they did it for reasons that should be acceptable to the court, for example, because:

    1. They acted in self-defense, or
    2. With the consent of the victim

    A defense of self-defense arises from the widely held belief that an individual has a right to defend himself when faced with the threat of physical harm by another. The defendant admits to the crime, but argues that it was necessary to protect himself or herself from being harmed by the other person.

    Here the defendant argues that he or she should not be held accountable for the offense because the victim consented to the offending action.

    The consent defense is rarely recognized by the court unless the extent of bodily harm perpetrated by the defendant is not serious, and/or the victim acted autonomously in participating in an act where harm was a foreseeable consequence, for example, by being a willing participant in a dangerous sport such as football or boxing.

    Furthermore, consent will not be recognized in cases where:

    • The victim is under the age of legal consent
    • The victim was unable to reasonably assess the nature of the harm to which he or she was consenting, due to a mental disease or defect, or because he or she was intoxicated at the time.
    • The victim was prohibited by law from giving consent.
    • The victim consented under duress or because he or she was deceived.


    In this category of defenses, a defendant admits to committing the offense, but argues that he should not be held responsible because his actions lacked the necessary criminal intent.

    Excuse defenses are often used to mitigate the penalties, partly or entirely, that one might face if convicted of the crime.

    Common criminal defenses in this category include:

    • Insanity
    • Intoxication
    • Entrapment
    • Duress
    • Automatism

    An Insanity defense asserts that the defendant should not be found guilty of the crime because he or she was mentally deficient at the time they committed the offense and unable to choose between right and wrong.

    Defendants who commit a crime under the influence of drugs or alcohol often argue that they should not be held accountable for their actions because their mental functioning was impaired at the time. An intoxication defense argues that because the defendant was intoxicated, he should not be held fully responsible for the acts he or she committed.

    Entrapment occurs when law enforcement, or its agents, induce or persuade an individual to commit an illegal act that the individual had no prior intention to commit, for example, by means of an undercover operation where law enforcement actively solicits the sale of an illegal substance to an uncover agent.

    Duress is a criminal defense that argues that a person was forced (at gunpoint, for example) to commit a crime due to some unlawful threat to his or her wellbeing.

    Automatism, as a preferred alternative to an insanity defense, asserts that the defendant should not be found guilty because he or she involuntarily committed the illegal act when they were unconscious or semiconscious (sleepwalking), due to either a physical or mental problem. Therefore, they lacked the requisite mental ability to grasp the wrongness of the act they were committing.

    Albuquerque Criminal Defense Law Firm

    The effectiveness of any criminal defense will largely depend on the skill of the defense attorney arguing the case and how it is received by the judge or jury during the trial. If you have been arrested on suspicion of a criminal offense, contact our offices to set up your initial free consultation; call 505-375-4767. Our attorneys can evaluate the facts of the case and develop a defense to fit your specific set of circumstances.