What Is the Purpose of a Defense to Criminal Charges?

Posted on by JACK MKHITARIAN

As a criminal defendant, it is in your best interest to create a defense alongside an attorney for the charges you are facing. It doesn’t matter if you are being charged with a misdemeanor or a felony, you must mount a defense to reduce the likelihood that you are convicted of the charges. Once convicted, you will have a permanent criminal record and that record will affect you the rest of your life.
In a criminal case, the prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you are guilty of the charges. It is the job of the defense to disprove evidence and poke holes in the prosecution’s case so that they cannot meet that burden. Proving beyond a reasonable doubt means the prosecutor must convince the judge or jury that you are guilty and there is no possibility of your innocence being true.

The Common Defense Strategies – and How They Apply

A criminal defense attorney creates a defense strategy based on the charge and the amount of evidence against their client. Not all strategies work for all cases. Never assume that you can use one of these common defense strategies for your case without speaking to a criminal defense attorney. We will review the most common defense strategies and how they are used in court.

The Presumption of Innocence – Standing By the Fact You Didn’t Do It
As a criminal defendant, you are innocent until proven guilty.
Some defendants will stand by their claim of innocence, simply stating they did not commit the crime. While this is a common defense strategy, it all depends on the evidence against you. Simply stating that you did not commit the crime is not enough. Instead, your attorney must collect evidence proving your innocence or collect enough evidence showing that the prosecutor has not proven your guilt.
For example, your attorney may present an alibi witness who will testify that you were with them at the time of the alleged crime. That witness would be your way of proving you were innocent and did not commit the crime. Unfortunately, not all defendants have the power of an alibi witness to prove that they are innocent.

The Defendant Did Not Realize They Were Committing a Crime
Another common defense strategy is claiming that the defendant did not realize they were committing a crime. For example, accepting stolen goods is a criminal offense. To succeed in convicting someone of this offense, the prosecution must prove that the defendant knew or reasonably should have known they were accepting stolen goods. If the defense can prove there was no way for the defendant to know that the goods were stolen, they may succeed with this defense strategy.
This strategy would not apply to all crimes. However, it is a popular strategy in theft cases.

The Defendant Was Acting in Self-Defense
TV and movies overplay the use of self-defense. Even if you were acting in self-defense, when you harmed or killed another person, it is more than just saying you were acting in self-defense. Instead, you must show that you had reasonable fear for your safety or the safety of someone you were protecting. The danger to yourself or the other party must be imminent. That means that, if you did not act out of self-defense, you or the other person would have been seriously harmed or killed. If the threat of danger is not serious or imminent, then you do not have a case for self-defense.
For example, you claim self-defense in an assault case, but the victim had already begun walking away when you attacked them. Because the victim was walking away and leaving your vicinity, the threat of immediate danger is no longer present and you would have difficulty claiming that your assault was in self-defense.

The Insanity Defense – You Could Not Have Known What You Were Doing Because You Were Legally Insane
The insanity defense is another one overplayed in TV shows and movies. Claiming that you were unable to recognize the results of your actions due to mental disease or defect is a very complex and niche defense strategy. Your attorney would need to provide medical evidence of a mental disease or defect and find medical professionals who could testify to your state of mind at the time of the crime.
The prosecution would counter your evidence with their own medical professionals, stating that you knew what you were doing at the time of the crime. In these cases, it comes down to who has the more believable medical evidence. It is incredibly difficult to claim mental insanity as a defense to most criminal acts.
Claiming Entrapment
Another common defense strategy is stating that law enforcement entrapped you. That means law enforcement coerced you into committing a crime with the intention of arresting you for that crime. To succeed with this defense, you would need to prove that law enforcement forced you to commit a crime you would not have committed without their coercion.

Hiring a Criminal Defense Attorney Is Your Best Strategy

The best strategy to defend yourself against criminal charges is to hire a criminal defense attorney. While you do have defense strategy options, only an experienced attorney should decide which strategy applies to your case. As stated above, these criminal defense strategies only apply to a handful of cases. Your attorney may have other defense strategies to help decrease the chances of a conviction. Weather it is arguing against the validity of evidence or using witnesses, there are always ways to defend yourself in a criminal case.
To explore your defense options, contact a criminal defense attorney immediately after your arrest. The sooner an attorney gets involved, the easier it will be to defend yourself against those criminal charges. Schedule a free and confidential case evaluation with a local attorney today. The team at New Mexico Criminal Law Offices is here to help you with your case. Contact our office now to schedule a case evaluation or request more information In a criminal case, the prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you are guilty of the charges. It is the job of the defense to disprove evidence and poke holes in the prosecution’s case so that they cannot meet that burden. Proving beyond a reasonable doubt means the prosecutor must convince the judge or jury that you are guilty and there is no possibility of your innocence being true.

The Common Defense Strategies – and How They Apply

A criminal defense attorney creates a defense strategy based on the charge and the amount of evidence against their client. Not all strategies work for all cases. Never assume that you can use one of these common defense strategies for your case without speaking to a criminal defense attorney. We will review the most common defense strategies and how they are used in court.

The Presumption of Innocence – Standing By the Fact You Didn’t Do It
As a criminal defendant, you are innocent until proven guilty.
Some defendants will stand by their claim of innocence, simply stating they did not commit the crime. While this is a common defense strategy, it all depends on the evidence against you. Simply stating that you did not commit the crime is not enough. Instead, your attorney must collect evidence proving your innocence or collect enough evidence showing that the prosecutor has not proven your guilt.
For example, your attorney may present an alibi witness who will testify that you were with them at the time of the alleged crime. That witness would be your way of proving you were innocent and did not commit the crime. Unfortunately, not all defendants have the power of an alibi witness to prove that they are innocent.

The Defendant Did Not Realize They Were Committing a Crime
Another common defense strategy is claiming that the defendant did not realize they were committing a crime. For example, accepting stolen goods is a criminal offense. To succeed in convicting someone of this offense, the prosecution must prove that the defendant knew or reasonably should have known they were accepting stolen goods. If the defense can prove there was no way for the defendant to know that the goods were stolen, they may succeed with this defense strategy.
This strategy would not apply to all crimes. However, it is a popular strategy in theft cases.

The Defendant Was Acting in Self-Defense
TV and movies overplay the use of self-defense. Even if you were acting in self-defense, when you harmed or killed another person, it is more than just saying you were acting in self-defense. Instead, you must show that you had reasonable fear for your safety or the safety of someone you were protecting. The danger to yourself or the other party must be imminent. That means that, if you did not act out of self-defense, you or the other person would have been seriously harmed or killed. If the threat of danger is not serious or imminent, then you do not have a case for self-defense.
For example, you claim self-defense in an assault case, but the victim had already begun walking away when you attacked them. Because the victim was walking away and leaving your vicinity, the threat of immediate danger is no longer present and you would have difficulty claiming that your assault was in self-defense.

The Insanity Defense – You Could Not Have Known What You Were Doing Because You Were Legally Insane
The insanity defense is another one overplayed in TV shows and movies. Claiming that you were unable to recognize the results of your actions due to mental disease or defect is a very complex and niche defense strategy. Your attorney would need to provide medical evidence of a mental disease or defect and find medical professionals who could testify to your state of mind at the time of the crime.
The prosecution would counter your evidence with their own medical professionals, stating that you knew what you were doing at the time of the crime. In these cases, it comes down to who has the more believable medical evidence. It is incredibly difficult to claim mental insanity as a defense to most criminal acts.
Claiming Entrapment
Another common defense strategy is stating that law enforcement entrapped you. That means law enforcement coerced you into committing a crime with the intention of arresting you for that crime. To succeed with this defense, you would need to prove that law enforcement forced you to commit a crime you would not have committed without their coercion.

Hiring a Criminal Defense Attorney Is Your Best Strategy

The best strategy to defend yourself against criminal charges is to hire a criminal defense attorney. While you do have defense strategy options, only an experienced attorney should decide which strategy applies to your case. As stated above, these criminal defense strategies only apply to a handful of cases. Your attorney may have other defense strategies to help decrease the chances of a conviction. Weather it is arguing against the validity of evidence or using witnesses, there are always ways to defend yourself in a criminal case.
To explore your defense options, contact a criminal defense attorney immediately after your arrest. The sooner an attorney gets involved, the easier it will be to defend yourself against those criminal charges. Schedule a free and confidential case evaluation with a local attorney today. The team at New Mexico Criminal Law Offices is here to help you with your case. Contact our office now to schedule a case evaluation or request more information online.