When police officers arrest you and then prosecutors arraign you on allegations of a criminal offense, you need to plan a defense if you want to be those charges in court. Prosecutors generally do not pursue cases without adequate evidence, so they likely have some compelling information that they believe will conclusively connect you to criminal activity.
The defense strategy that you employ in court will depend on numerous factors, including your criminal record, the evidence to prosecutor has and the exact charges they have brought against you. Some people avoid a conviction by challenging the evidence the prosecutors have collected. Others undermine the credibility of witnesses or bring in experts to testify on their behalf.
When the state has compelling evidence that you have no way to challenge and keep out of court, you may feel like you have a few options for a defense, but an affirmative defense could still be possible.
Affirmative defenses focus on circumstances
Rather than trying to reduce the connection between you and the alleged criminal offense, an affirmative defense strategy instead seeks to prove your actions weren’t criminal. There are numerous situations in which a behavior that would otherwise break the law technically becomes legal.
Although it is against the law to hit someone or use a weapon to hurt another person, you could engage in an act of interpersonal violence without breaking the law if you act to defend yourself against an immediate threat in your own home.
There are other affirmative defenses that can work against different charges. Someone who is the victim of human trafficking could use their experience to defend against any criminal activity that occurred. Someone who lacks the mental capacity to act as an adult or who experienced temporary insanity could argue that they did not have the capability of forming criminal intent.
An affirmative defense can be a viable option for those who cannot distance themselves from what seems like criminal behavior by challenging or undermining the evidence. It allows them to prove that they did not break the law by reframing the situation and showing that there were extenuating circumstances.
No one defense strategy will work in every case
Affirmative defenses often required careful planning and the support of experts. Looking into all of the ways to raise a reasonable doubt about your guilt can help you choose the right defense strategy when you find yourself accused of a major felony.