When a prosecutor seeks a conviction of someone charged with a crime in California, they are required to prove guilt “beyond a reasonable doubt.” Providing reasonable doubt is the most frequently used defense strategy in criminal courts. Defendants accused of a crime have the right to hire a criminal defense attorney to present their case and any evidence that creates reasonable doubt that they committed the crime.
When a criminal defense lawyer approaches a case, they work with their client to find weaknesses in the case the prosecution is likely to present and employ the best strategy for defense. Since every case is unique, there are various ways to present an effective defense. An experienced criminal defense attorney has the knowledge to review the specific details of the case and seek the best outcome for their client.
The Most Common Criminal Defense
The prosecution must prove the criminal allegations against an individual in the state of California beyond a reasonable doubt, so in most cases, creating doubt is the primary means of developing a defense strategy. This is known in the courts as the highest standard of proof. It means the evidence the prosecutor brings before the judge or jury must exclude any other plausible theories on the commission of the crime. Then, those deciding the case have no reason to believe the charges are untrue.
Other Types of Criminal Defense Strategies
In some cases, reasonable doubt is not the most effective way for an attorney to build a comprehensive defense for their client. Other types of criminal defense include the following:
- Intoxication or unconsciousness. An attorney may use this defense strategy if their client wasn’t in the necessary mental state to commit the crime they are accused of. This may be a viable defense if they were unconscious due to certain medical conditions or under the influence of substances that rendered them intoxicated.Use of this defense may be distinguished further based on whether the intoxication was involuntary or voluntary. For instance, an individual who knowingly used mind-altering chemicals when they committed a crime is not likely to benefit from this defense strategy. However, someone who unknowingly ingested a spiked drink may not be held liable for a crime they committed while they were intoxicated.
- Self-defense or defense of another. If an individual used proportionate and reasonable force to protect themself or another person, it may be a viable defense for certain charges, such as assault. However, it is important to ensure the circumstances warranted the level of force used. For example, if one person pushes another out of their way, it is not reasonable for the other person to pull out a knife and stab them in the chest. However, it may be reasonable for the other individual to give them a pushback and then walk away from the situation. For this reason, the facts related to the situation are essential to self-defense claims.
- Necessity. In certain rare cases, committing a crime may be necessary to prevent greater harm to another person or to property. For example, speeding is typically considered to be reckless driving. Still, if a person is speeding to the hospital in an effort to save the life of a passenger in their vehicle, they may use necessity as a defense.
- Mistake of fact. For an individual to be prosecuted for certain crimes, it is necessary for them to have reasonably known certain facts. For instance, trespassing is a crime, but it requires the person to know they were entering another individual’s property without permission. If a defendant reasonably believed they had permission to enter a property but later finds that permission had been revoked without their knowledge, that would be a mistake of fact.
- Insanity. For most crimes, insanity is a complete defense. When an individual is legally insane, they cannot comprehend the nature of their actions and the consequences that may result. Since they do not possess the mental capability to be “guilty” of the crime, they may use this as a defense, but it doesn’t necessarily mean they will be released. In many cases, an individual who is declared legally insane must be committed to a state mental hospital to undergo treatment for their condition.
- Entrapment. This defense strategy may be used if a government attempts to prosecute an individual for illegal activity the government itself actually induced. This is often a complete defense to certain crimes. However, if the individual was predisposed to committing the crime and the government simply provided them with an opportunity to do something they would have done anyway, it is not considered entrapment.
- Duress. A defendant may use duress as a defense if the illegal act they committed was done so under the threat of imminent physical harm to them or their loved ones. For example, if a person is facing charges for bank robbery, but they only robbed the bank because another individual held a gun to their head and made them do it, they may be found not guilty.
- Constitutional issues and suppression. In many criminal cases, evidence is seized by means of a search warrant. However, it is more common for law enforcement to perform searches without a warrant and have the search sustained, as there are many exceptions to the Fourth Amendment warrant requirement.Regardless of whether a warrant was present, an attorney may bring a motion to suppress evidence if justification for the search was questionable. If the court rules that the defendant’s constitutional rights were violated in the search, the evidence may be ruled out.
- Mistaken identity and alibis. If an eyewitness identifies a perpetrator of a crime, but they were biased or didn’t have a good vantage point, the identity of the individual may be in serious doubt. This is also possible if various witnesses give conflicting identifications. A defendant’s solid alibi may contribute to their defense in such a case.
- Accident. For an act to be a crime, the perpetrator’s conduct must be intentional or undertaken voluntarily. If a criminal act occurred as a result of a complete, true accident, this defense strategy may be employed.
Hire a Defense Attorney With a Proven Track Record
If you are facing criminal charges, it is essential to have a legal professional with experience on your side, and Aaron Meyer Law is here to help. Our team can walk you through the best defense strategies you can use to protect your freedom and your rights. Contact us today.