If you’ve been charged with a crime, you may face jail time, heavy fines, and all of the lasting consequences of having a mark on your criminal record. Before you head into the courtroom, you will need to be prepared with a defense strategy to use against the prosecution to give yourself the best chance at regaining the freedom you had before being charged.
The most basic criminal defense strategies fall under one of two categories: the defendant didn’t commit the crime, or the defendant did commit the crime but should not be held responsible for his or her actions. Let’s explore some of these defense strategies.
The Defendant Did Not Commit the Crime – Defense Strategies
Lack of Proof – Throughout the entire process, you are innocent until proven guilty. This puts the burden on the prosecution. The prosecution must prove that you are guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
But you don’t have to prove that you are innocent. If you and your lawyer can convince the judge that there is a reasonable doubt that you did not commit the crime, you will be acquitted. Whatever evidence the prosecution presents during your trial, you and your lawyer need to work to discount it and poke holes in their story.
Alibi – An alibi is a piece of evidence that shows a judge that you were not present at the time of the crime for which you have been accused. For example, if a crime was committed at 8 P.M. on a Thursday night on Elm Street in Greensboro, and you have a check from a restaurant that proves you were a 2 hours away eating dinner at that time, you have an alibi and can be set free.
The Defendant Committed the Crime, But Should Not Be Penalized – Defense Strategies
Self-Defense – If law enforcement finds multiple people engaged in assault or dangerous physical contact, they have to make a decision about who will be charged and who may be let go. But these altercations can be confusing, and law enforcement might arrive in the middle of the confrontation and without witnessing how the altercation began.
If you were engaged in physical contact because you were acting in self-defense, it may be mistaken as aggression, and you could be charged. To fight these charges, you and your lawyer will have to prove that you acted in self-defense, engaging in physical conflict because you felt there was an imminent danger to your physical safety and wellbeing.
Consent – Similarly, law enforcement can mistake consensual activity as a crime, and someone may be charged. In some cases, using consent as a defense strategy is appropriate, but it is not always the key to an acquittal.
Insanity – This is another defense strategy that is only appropriate when it can be properly proven to a judge. Insanity is defined in the courts as “the inability to distinguish right from wrong,” but proving this is harder than one might think.
Evidence from a psychiatrist or other healthcare professionals will be necessary to prove to a judge that you acted out of insanity. Using this defense, you may also be subject to rehabilitation rather than treatment. In other words, you won’t get off scot-free.
Under the Influence – This defense won’t work for a DUI case, but it may work in a similar manner to an insanity defense for other charges. If you committed a crime under the influence of drugs or alcohol and can prove that you were not in the correct mental state while committing that crime, you may face lesser charges or a shortened sentence. However, it is not advised to rely solely on this defense strategy for an acquittal.
Entrapment – Members of law enforcement often go undercover to catch individuals committing a crime, but sometimes they go too far hoping to make an arrest. This can backfire if the defendant uses an entrapment defense.
Entrapment is the act of inducing or coercing someone into committing a crime. For example, if an undercover officer pushes or forces someone into selling controlled substances, the individual selling the drugs may not be convicted on account of entrapment.
Every Criminal Defense Case Is Different
Some of these defenses will be more or less appropriate depending on the specific circumstances of the case, the amount of evidence available, or the nature of the crime that was allegedly committed. Beyond these defenses, there are also options for plea bargains and similar compromises that will lead to mitigated sentences. The best way to pick and develop the best defense strategy for your situation is to contact a North Carolina criminal defense lawyer and discuss your specific case.
About the Author:
Attorney Mike Schlosser represents victims of personal injury, those charged with a crime, as well as those facing traffic charges. A former Guilford County, North Carolina District Attorney, Schlosser has been in private practice at the Law Firm of Schlosser & Pritchett since 1983 and has been a member of the North Carolina State Bar since 1973.