6 Most Common Types of Defenses in Criminal Law 

When a defendant is accused of a crime, the prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant is guilty of the charge. The defendant, on the other hand, the defendant merely has to raise a reasonable doubt.  If he does, the jury or judge must find him not guilty.

There are a variety of defenses that a defense attorney can use to help you challenge the prosecutor’s evidence. You must know about these types of defenses if you’re caught up in a criminal case.

1.   Self Defenses in Criminal Law

This type of defense is mostly used in crimes like assault, battery, or murder. There is a valid legal claim that individuals can defend themselves in life-threatening situations. Self-defense claims mean that the defendant’s action responds to the victim’s violent action. However, this self-defense claim will only be considered if the defense act was proportional to the victim’s initial violent attack.

2.   Insanity/Incompetent to Stand Trial

Unlike what is portrayed in tv dramas’ courtrooms, insanity as a defense in any criminal case is rarely used. It is still, however, a valid claim.  The defense must show that the defendant did not understand the criminality of his conduct due to a severe mental defect or illness.  Incompetence to stand trial is a bit different.  It is not a defense to the crime, so much as a defense to the proceedings entirely. With this, the defense must show that the defendant  is incapable of understanding the nature of the proceedings and assisting in his own defense.  If the defendant is found insane or incompetent, he will usually end up hospitalized long term in a mental institution until such time as he can be restored safely to society.  If the defendant is found compentent, he will stand trial.  And if his insanity defense fails, he will likely be found guilty.a 

3.   Mistake of Fact

Mistake of fact is another valid defense under criminal law. Under this defense, the defendant can claim that they were unaware of the fundamental elements of the accusations. The defendant misunderstood some facts that negate an element of the crime. For example, in a larceny case, the defendant might believe a property rightfully belongs to him, and this misunderstanding negates the intention to deprive another individual of the property. One important qualification, however, is that this mistake of fact must be honest and reasonable.

4.   Duress 

This type of defense means the defendant committed the crime under hreat, force, and coercion by another. 

5.   Consent 

Consent is one of the most common defenses in criminal law. This defense involves the argument that the victim of a crime consented to the accused’s actions. For example, in a theft case, the defendant may argue that the victim gave him the property now claimed to be stolen.  Also, in the case of sexual, the defendant may argue the sexual conduct between the parties was consensual.

Quick Note: It is not enough to know how a defense works in a criminal cases.  It is best to have a highly skilled defense attorney represent you.


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