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Criminal Defense Law FAQ



Criminal defense law is the area of law that deals with the various defenses available to a person accused of a crime. These defenses are used in court to help strengthen the claim that the person is not guilty of committing a criminal felony or a criminal misdemeanor.

The type of defense used will depend on the type of crime committed. A defense for speeding will not be the same as the defense used for assault. You should set up consultations with experienced felony attorneys or misdemeanor lawyers prior to your trial to establish a defense you can use in court.

Why Should I Learn about Criminal Defense Law?

Although your criminal defense attorney will be well versed in criminal defense law, it is important for you to have a basic understanding of the defenses available to you as well.

This is especially true if you are being charged with a serious crime-such as a felony-that entails a serious penalty. Because jail time may be a possibility, you will want to have every tool at your disposal to ensure you are not convicted. Remaining ignorant of criminal defense law means that you will have to rely solely on the advice of your attorney. If you do not understand the defenses available to you, it will be more difficult for you to ask your attorney questions and understand his or her answers.

In short, it will only help your chances in court if you have at least a basic understanding of criminal defense law.

When Should I Raise a Defense?

There are several points throughout the criminal justice process where you are able to raise a criminal defense.

When to raise a defense is part of case strategy and should be discussed with your attorney in advance. In general, you may raise a defense during the pre-trial portion of the case, such as during the hearing before the grand jury. Defenses may also be raised at the trial itself.

What Types of Defenses are Available?

There are two main categories of defenses. The first kind of defense seeks to refute the evidence put forth by the prosecution. This type of defense does not require the defendant to produce any evidence of his or her own.

The second type of defense is known as an affirmative defense. This type of defense accepts the factual allegations set forth by the prosecution. However, it seeks to excuse the actions of the defendant as lawful. This type of defense does require the defendant to provide evidence to support his or her claim.

What are Some Examples of Affirmative Defenses?

Under criminal defense law, there are a slew of affirmative defenses available to a defendant. The following are some examples:

  • Alibi: An alibi is when a defendant attempts to prove that he or she was not at the scene of the crime when the crime took place. Often the alibi defense relies on testimony from another individual or video evidence that documents the defendants whereabouts.
  • Self-defense: In situations where someone is accused of committing battery or murder, the affirmative defense of self-defense may be invoked. Self-defense means that in the course of protecting yourself or another person from an attacker, you caused injury to the attacker.
  • Insanity: Pleading insanity means that you were incapable of distinguishing right from wrong during the crime due to mental illness.