Common Defenses Used in a Criminal Trial

If you are accused of a felony or misdemeanor, you may have a defense. There are various ways a skilled criminal defense attorney can help you avoid a conviction and jail time.

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A Defendant Does Not Have to Present a Defense

The prosecuting attorney must prove a person guilty beyond a reasonable doubt for a criminal conviction. Although a defendant need not present any defense at all, a successful defense usually depends on putting up a fight. The best defense lawyers can adapt to trial developments and overcome unforeseen evidence, but generally, a trial defense is established before the commencement of the trial.

The most common defenses at trial include:

  • Self-defense – Self-defense is a common defense used by people charged with a violent crime, like domestic violence, assault, and battery, felonious assault, and murder. The defendant using this defense will agree that he or she used some force, such as punching someone. However, they will argue that the force was legally justified. If the other person involved in the altercation did something threatening or assaultive first, reasonable force in self-defense is legal. The prosecutor must prove “beyond a reasonable doubt” that the defendant did not act in self-defense.
  • The insanity defense – Defendants who did not have control of their actions or didn’t understand what they were doing are legally insane and not guilty. At times, people suffering from mental disorders aren’t able to choose right from wrong. Hence the insanity defense prevents a conviction for someone who has a severe mental illness. If the jury finds that the defendant was insane at the time of the offense, he or she is not guilty. The defendant will then have to be hospitalized until he or she is not a danger to himself or others. The time spent in the hospital may exceed the maximum sentence on the original charge.
  • Incompetence – Defendants who, at the time of the legal proceedings, are not able to understand the process or effectively assist their lawyers are not competent. If a defendant remains incompetent for 1/3 of the maximum possible sentence, not to exceed 15 months, he or she is entitled to have the case dismissed. Hospitalization or other mental health treatment after the dismissal is not required.
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  • The alibi defense – The alibi defense is when the defendant claims to be innocent because he or she was in some other specific place at the time when the crime occurred. Using this defense often means you have evidence and an eyewitness or other evidence can establish proof that you were somewhere else when the crime occurred. With sufficient evidence, the alibi defense is powerful. The prosecution is entitled to notice in advance of trial that alibi will be the defense and what witnesses will be testifying on that issue. The prosecution will then have to present evidence, if possible, to rebut the defense.
  • The entrapment defense – When law enforcement or its agents induce an otherwise law-abiding person to commit a crime that he or she would not likely have committed without the inducement, this is called “entrapment.” However, if the government provided an opportunity for a crime to happen, and a person takes advantage of that situation, this is not considered entrapment since the person is ready and willing to commit a crime. Entrapment is generally a challenging defense to present, and judges are very critical of these claims. It often only usually works if the defendant has little or no previous criminal history or no criminal history that is similar to the current charges. Judges in Oakland County, Wayne County, Macomb County, Livingston County, and Washtenaw County have demonstrated a real aversion to this defense. However, it is still viable if presented credibly and by a highly competent, aggressive criminal defense lawyer.
  • Statute of limitations defense – The statute of limitations is the time limit imposed on the government for charging a crime. The statute of limitations applies to a probation violation (VOP) as well. Some statutes of limitations are set by statute to a specific period, and sometimes, notions of fairness called Due Process set the statute of limitations. The delay is measured by subjective factors. Most crimes must be charged within a certain period from when the crime occurred. Some crimes, including murder, do not have a statute of limitations. But for misdemeanors, the time frame can be as little as a few. If the time set by the statute of limitations passes without a charge, a would-be defendant is barred from prosecution.
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If you would like a free consultation to see what defenses are available to you or a loved one who is charged with a misdemeanor or felony offense, please do not hesitate to call an experienced, assertive, and capable criminal attorney with LEWIS & DICKSTEIN, P.L.L.C.

Call us today at (248) 263-6800 for a free consultation, or complete a Request for Assistance Form and we will contact you promptly.

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