Facing criminal charges can be incredibly scary and intimidating, especially if you don’t have any legal representation. Obviously, for every crime allegedly committed, there is also a variety of charges and potential penalties based on the supposed act. What you need to know, as the defendant, is that there are a also number of defenses that you can use to prove your innocence, or to at least decrease the sentencing once you appear in court.
That’s why, after being charged with a crime, your first step should be to find a knowledgeable criminal defense lawyer. He or she can help you to understand your charges, what you are up against, and the options that are available to you.
Below you will find several potential defense strategies that may help you to get your charges reduced, dropped, or dismissed. Of course, the best way to know what you should do in your specific situation is to set up a free initial consultation with a respected defense attorney, but these should at least give you a sense of some of the basic defenses that can work in a variety of crimes.
If you want to admit to the crime…
These defenses cover situations where you want to use the “affirmative” defense. Essentially, you argue that you committed the act, but believe there were extenuating circumstances.
Self-Defense. In many cases, self-defense can be claimed as a defense against charges and the accusation of criminal activity. This often works in assault and battery cases, domestic violence, and cases of murder. An experienced defense attorney will be able to help you craft your case if you feel that you acted in self-defense, including building the case against the prosecution.
Under the Influence. Drugs and alcohol are well known for altering behavior in virtually everyone. Sometimes, using this as a defense can work in your favor by changing a charge from “intentional” to “unintentional.” It is even possible to use it to decrease charges from felonies to misdemeanors and so on. This is often used in assault and battery, theft, murder, or rape cases where the defendant claims that they were under the influence, and therefore were unable to coherently act upon a preplanned thought.
Insanity. Though TV shows and movies make it seem like the insanity defense is used all the time, in reality it is quite rare. Most skilled defenders only use it in severe cases like murder and higher class felony actions. The defendant will plead “guilty by reason of insanity,” meaning he or she was not in their right mind at the time the crime was committed. This is supported by psychiatric evaluations and mental health professionals who testify for the defendant’s mental health (or lack thereof).
If you want to plead not guilty…
These defenses cover situations where you want to deny the assertion that you committed the act in the first place.
Reasonable Doubt. The one thing that the prosecution must provide is proof of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Your defense lawyer can place reasonable doubt on your involvement in the crime, something that can be done by simply forcing the prosecution to provide evidence and then calling that evidence into question.
Alibis. One of the best defenses in any case, whether you’re accused of theft, assault and battery, murder, or another crime altogether, is an alibi. If someone can vouch for your whereabouts at the time the crime was committed, you can shut down the prosecution’s arguments. If you can’t provide an alibi that holds up in court, odds are in favor of the prosecution.
Innocent Until Proven Guilty. As stated in your Miranda Rights, you are innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. Your defense attorney embraces this reality, and knows how best to work with it. The prosecution, in such a case as yours, has more work to do to prove your guilt than you do to uphold your innocence. Let an experienced and knowledgeable attorney help you by arguing that you do not meet the legal requirements needed to convict you.
About the Author:
Kimberly Diego is a criminal defense attorney in Denver practicing at The Law Office of Kimberly Diego. She obtained her undergraduate degree from Georgetown University and her law degree at the University of Colorado. She was named one of Super Lawyers’ “Rising Stars of 2012” and “Top 100 Trial Lawyers in Colorado” for 2012 and 2013 by The National Trial Lawyers. Both honors are limited to a small percentage of practicing attorneys in each state. She has also been recognized for her work in domestic violence cases.