Common defenses against criminal charges include:
- Presumption of innocence: This principle requires the prosecutor to prove the criminal defendant’s guilt. The defendant does not need to argue the case, present any witnesses or do anything to prove innocence.
- Proof beyond a reasonable doubt: Because of the serious consequences of a criminal conviction, a prosecutor must prove unequivocal guilt. The prosecutor must convince a judge or jury that the defendant is guilty “beyond a reasonable doubt.”
- The alibi defense: In this defense, the defendant attempts to prove that he or she was somewhere other than the scene of the crime at the time of the alleged offense. It seeks to prove that the defendant is innocent.
- Self-defense: This type of defense is commonly used by defendants who have been accused of violent crimes such as battery, assault with a deadly weapon or murder. The defendant admits violence, but attributes the crime to the other person’s threatening or violent acts.
- Insanity defense: In this defense, the defendant admits the offense, but seeks to excuse his or her behavior on the grounds of insanity. It is based on the principle that punishment is justified only when one is able to control one’s behavior, and has the capacity to understand that one has committed a crime.
- Intoxication defense: This defense depends on whether the intoxication was voluntary or involuntary, and whether the intent in question was clear and strong enough to merit a criminal charge. Generally, voluntary intoxication does not excuse criminal conduct. However, in some states, it can be used to raise reasonable doubt about specific intent in a crime.
The defense of entrapment: This occurs when the government or the law enforcement officers persuade a person to commit a crime by actually placing the idea in their mind. However, entrapment can be difficult to prove when a defendant has a prior related conviction. In addition, the defendant may be found guilty even if a government agent suggested or helped commit the crime if a judge or jury believes that he or she had the inclination to commit the crime.