common defense strategies in criminal cases

Common Criminal Defense Strategies

Criminal attorneys help clients develop a defense strategy to use in a criminal case. As soon as you retain a lawyer and sign a representation agreement, they start to build your strategy. 

First, your attorney looks at the evidence to better understand the charges and case against you. In doing so, they can identify the probable cause for arrest and look for cracks in the case. 

Your attorney is an advocate to help you navigate these legal issues, suggest solutions, and recommend strategies. They provide advice and against, but ultimately, you make the final decisions. 

  • How you plead
  • Whether you testify
  • Whether you take a plea bargain

All of the above decisions are up to you. However, your attorney will offer counsel so that you understand the potential impact of each decision. Sound legal counsel is crucial because the goal is to raise reasonable doubt about the case against you. 

If successful, it can lead to acquittal and even a clean record. 

17 Examples of Defense Strategies

1. Self Defense

Self-defense means that you defend your health and well-being from harm. If you were in danger in the event of the charges, the right of self-defense is a legal justification for the use of force. 

2. Alibi

An alibi is a defense strategy rooted in the fact that you were somewhere else at the time of the alleged crime. This defense can be difficult to prove. Usually, it requires witness testimony, security footage, or other evidence. However, it can result in a dismissal if successful. 

alibi defense

3. Entrapment

Entrapment asserts that law enforcement coerced you into committing a crime, something you would not have done otherwise. To prove this, you have to show evidence of a trick or threat that led to you committing the act. 

4. Duress

The duress defense lays out a threat of harm or death against you that caused you to commit a crime. This defense strategy requires proof of an immediate threat of violence and that you had no other reasonable course of action. 

5. Innocence

This defense asserts that you did not commit the crime. Proof includes: 

  • Physical evidence
  • Eyewitness testimony
  • Footage 
  • Other types of reliable proof

Innocence works best as a defense when there is a lack of evidence that links you to the crime. However, it can be difficult in some cases when the prosecution has an abundance of evidence against you. 

6. Mistake of Fact

A mistake of fact defense claims that you believed that you were not committing a crime due to a lack of understanding or incorrect information about the law. For instance, if you believe you can legally carry a firearm in a state that doesn’t allow it, “mistake of fact” may be a solid defense strategy. 

7. Necessity

This defense argues that you had to commit the crime in order to avoid greater harm. It is similar to the duress defense in that way. In this case, you have to prove there was justification for your actions within the circumstances. 

8. Consent

Consent is a defense in which you argue that the victim consented to the act. Usually, this defense applies to cases of sexual misconduct or assault. It requires rather convincing evidence that the victim knew the risks. 

9. Impeaching Witness Credibility

Undermining the credibility of key witnesses works to your benefit. Victims, informants, and eyewitnesses provide the basis in many criminal cases. The reliability of a witness is almost always in question. 

For example, informants have incentives to comply and even fabricate information. Cross-examination can reveal bias and contradictions in their stories. 

10. Police Misconduct

Unfortunately, certain law enforcement officials want to close a case regardless of whether they have the right person. They might exaggerate facts or participate in other misconduct throughout an investigation. Typically, it involves one of the following actions:

  • Making a false statement
  • Handling evidence improperly
  • Pressuring innocent people to confess to crimes they did not commit

police misconduct defense

11. Statute of Limitations

This is a procedural defense. Certain crimes have a window in which prosecution can bring a case. When that window closes, it can bar them from pursuing charges. 

12. Renunciation

The renunciation defense asserts that you chose not to go through with a crime. It requires evidence that shows you abandoned your plans or tried to prevent the crime. 

13. Insanity 

Insanity is a defense made popular by the media. It asserts that you did commit the crime but did not understand the difference between right and wrong due to a mental illness or lapse. This defense requires significant evidence of mental illness at the time of the crime. 

A similar instance is a “crime of passion,” in which someone loses their senses in a heated moment.

14. Age Affecting Criminal Responsibility

Texas Penal Code Section 8.07 provides an age defense. Specifically, it lays out a statute that someone between 10 and 15 years old can only commit a juvenile crime. Additionally, those under 15 years old cannot be prosecuted for a crime in many cases. 

15. Involuntary Intoxication

This falls under a lack of intent. Due to a state of intoxication, you didn’t know what you were doing. This cancels out the intent of the crime. 

Can being too drunk or high really serve as a defense? It is possible, especially if you didn’t know a drink was spiked or something you ate was drugged. 

16. Voluntary Intoxication

Unlike involuntary intoxication, getting drunk or high and committing a crime is not always a valid defense. However, certain crimes have a specific requirement for intent. This means that the prosecution has to prove you intended to commit the crime. Additionally, they must prove you intended for the specific consequences to occur. 

17. Constitutional Violations

This defense involves the way in which law enforcement collected evidence. Constitutional violations include: 

  • Illegal search and seizure of your person, clothing, car, or home 
  • Obtaining an improper confession
  • Failure to read your Miranda Rights at the time of arrest
  • Failure to obtain a warrant for entry

Police officers can make mistakes. These mistakes can allow your attorney to suppress evidence or dismiss your case entirely. 

Working With an Attorney to Select Your Defense

At Universal Law Group, PLLC, we are seasoned defense attorneys. Our legal team explores all available defenses to build a strong foundation for your case. We leave nothing on the table in our fight to protect you against fines, jail time, and a criminal record.