Common Types of Legal Defenses to Reduce Criminal Charges
There are different types of legal defenses in criminal law. When a defense is based on a fact, it’s called a factual defense; when it’s based on a law, it’s called a legal defense. Some examples of defensive strategies include the defense of necessity, self-defense and defense of others. Some legal defenses can reduce charges or even result in an acquittal.
Defense of Others
While the law generally discourages force against other people, it allows individuals to use reasonable force to defend others. This type of defense is called “defense of others” or “defense of third parties.” Like self-defense, defense of others requires that a defendant believe that the other person was in imminent danger. However, this belief does not need to be founded on fact. For example, John is at a party and watches Tim raise his fist to punch Liam.
Because John thinks Liam could be hurt, he uses reasonable force to prevent the attack. Another legal defense is a mistake of fact, which applies when the defendant honestly misunderstands a key element of a crime. For example, if an eyewitness testifies that a defendant committed a crime, the criminal defense attorney from Nebraska may challenge this testimony and point out flaws or inconsistencies.
The State of Nebraska must use all available evidence and testimony before that trial to establish your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Often, that includes testimony by a purported eyewitness to the crime. With the help of an Omaha criminal defense attorney who can outline the trustworthiness of eyewitness testimony, you can determine how reliable the testimony is.
Challenge the Prosecution’s Evidence of Guilt
One of the most basic legal defenses is challenging the prosecution’s evidence. You must prove that the prosecutor’s case against you is untrue beyond a reasonable doubt. If you can do this, you will be found not guilty. Other legal defenses involve showing that the accused did not commit a crime or did not do so for an illegitimate purpose.
It includes the reasons for provocation, intoxication and mental illness. Mistakes of fact and mistaken interpretation of the law are also criminal defenses. It includes arguing that you honestly and reasonably misunderstood a key element of a crime, such as intent to steal or murder.
This type of defense is called a justification or excuse defense. It protects first responders such as police officers, firefighters and EMTs from being held responsible for actions that are required in the course and scope of their employment.
Defenses based on self-defense are a common part of criminal cases. If a defendant performs what would be considered a crime under most circumstances, but they were acting in self-defense, and the force they used was proportionate to the threat, they may not be guilty of any crimes.
To be valid, this type of defense must involve a reasonable apprehension of great bodily harm or death and a belief that no other means could prevent the attack. It is a serious defense and should only be argued by experienced criminal defense attorneys. Other self-defense legal defenses include necessity, mistake, and adequate provocation. The latter involves arguing that the accused was forced to commit the act they did by another person.
Duress or Coercion
Duress is a legal defense that excuses you from criminal responsibility if it is your only option to avoid harm. To be eligible for this defense, you must be concerned and fear that the threat will be carried out. Coercion is using actual violence, threats, or other forms of pressure to force you to act against your will.
It can include physical or psychological stress and financial anxiety, such as threatening to close your business or fire you from your job. To successfully raise a duress or coercion defense, you must have no means of escape from the situation where the crime occurred. In other words, you must have been unable to leave the crime scene or overcome the person threatening you to escape from the situation.
Abandonment and Withdrawal
In cases of conspiracy that require an overt act, one conspirator can escape liability if they prove that they successfully abandoned or withdrawn from the crime before it was committed. However, to use this defense, the individual must have voluntarily decided to leave or start and communicated their intentions to all co-conspirators.
Additionally, they cannot later reinitiate contact with any individuals involved in the crime or cite withdrawal as a reason for their criminal actions. Mistake is a common type of legal defense, and it usually consists of denying the mens rea element of the crime. It can also include claiming that they didn’t know the crime was wrong or suffering from a mental disorder at the time.