What Is a Defense in Criminal Law?
In a criminal case, each crime has a set of elements. The prosecution must establish every one of these elements beyond a reasonable doubt in order to obtain a conviction. A defense is anything that could negate one or more of those elements. The defendant does not have to actively prove their guilt, but they can improve their chances at trial by putting on evidence that puts at least one element of the crime into question. That is where a strong defense comes in.
There are countless potential defenses across the entire scope of criminal law. Some defenses apply to a wide range of cases. Others are very narrow, only applying to a single offense.
It is not always easy to identify the strongest defense in any given case. One of the benefits of an experienced Minnesota criminal defense lawyer is that they can carefully evaluate the facts of your case and advise you on the best defense for your situation. If you are ready to talk about your defense options, the attorneys at Gerald Miller are ready to help. Before you meet with them for the first time, you can familiarize yourself with some of the most common defenses in criminal cases.
Acting in self-defense is arguably the most common defense for violent criminal offenses. These include assault, battery, or murder. You have the right to defend yourself in the face of serious bodily injury or death.
That said, you can only use a reasonable amount of force depending on the circumstances you find yourself in. For example, using lethal force in response to a person spitting on you is unlikely to be effective.
Much like you have the right to defend yourself, you are also justified in the use of force to defend others. You can use the defense-of-others defense to protect the safety of anyone, from a family member to a total stranger. Like self-defense, this option is only available upon a reasonable use of force.
The simplest, and often strongest, the defense is that you simply did not commit the crime. Often, this defense focuses on the deficiencies of the prosecution’s case instead of attempting to establish some alternate theory of facts. In some cases, it is enough to highlight the state’s inability to prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
A variety of acts are only illegal if the other party involved does not consent to them. This is true for everything from sexual assault to mortgage fraud. These offenses all include an element that they must have occurred against the will of an alleged victim. Establishing consent makes it impossible for the state to meet that burden of proof.
A common defense seen on procedural cop TV shows is an alibi defense. When a certain offense requires proof that a person was in a specific place at a specific time, an alibi defense negates that element of the crime. An alibi means that you have proof that you were somewhere other than the location where the crime committed at the time it occurred. For example, if a witness testifies that you were in another state entirely when a robbery occurred, that is an alibi witness.
Every defendant in every criminal case is protected by a host of rights under the United States Constitution. The violation of these rights could result in the exclusion of evidence of trial or even the dismissal of a criminal charge.
As well-practised criminal defense attorneys in Minnesota, we know that the most common constitutional violations involve unlawful searches and seizures. If the police search your property or your person without a warrant or some other legal justification to do so, any evidence they uncover could be excluded at trial. This is through a legal theory known as “fruit of the poisonous tree.” Anything from an admission of guilt to a murder weapon could be excluded if the police violated your rights when obtaining the evidence.
Contact a Minnesota Defense Lawyer Today
Only your attorney can advise you of every potential defense in your specific case. Before you take your case to trial before a jury of your peers, your best option is to first hire a skilled attorney. To get started on your defense, contact the attorneys of Gerald Miller at (612) 440-4610 right away.