In criminal law, an affirmative defense is a formal way of acquitting an alleged criminal defendant without requiring the prosecution to prove guilt. This can happen in two ways: either the defense admits that the accused committed the crime and then asks for mercy, or they claim innocence of their own accord. Criminal lawyers often use affirmative defenses to shift blame away from their clients. A good example of an affirmative defense is self-defense. If you’ve been accused of a crime and are looking for ways to defend yourself, you’ll want to be aware of these four affirmative defenses that mitigate the severity of most crimes:
Generally speaking, self-defense is any action taken in order to stop an aggressor from hurting you or someone else. It requires more than just provocation, and it’s not available if your actions were excessive or otherwise unwarranted. Also, you can’t use it if you’re the one who started the conflict.
Self-defense is the most commonly used affirmative defense in cases where a defendant is accused of a crime such as assault and battery. Self-defense is a viable defense when the defendant was reasonably in fear of imminent death or bodily harm at the hands of the alleged victim.
The burden of proof is on the defendant to prove reasonable fear rather than on the prosecution to prove that the defendant did not act out of this fear and to further prove that he used excessive force or retaliated without a proper cause.
If a government agent or someone acting on behalf of the government tricks or coerces you into committing a crime, in many states your actions will not be considered criminal at all. In fact, they can’t even be used against you in court. Some states do not allow entrapment as a defense, so it’s important to be aware of your state’s particular laws.
Entrapment occurs when an officer or agent of the police offers you an opportunity to engage in criminal activity, persuades you to do so, and encourages you to follow through with the crime. Because it is all part of a government-run sting operation, it is difficult to claim that you were acting of your own free will.
It is at its strongest in the states that allow the defense to be raised after the fact, but you can claim it before any charges are filed. It can also be raised in a plea bargain agreement or during a pretrial hearing. Entrapment isn’t recognized in federal court. Once you are convicted of a crime, you cannot raise the entrapment defense. The entrapment defense is based upon the idea that it is unfair for the government to take advantage of a person’s vulnerabilities.
Intoxication or unconsciousness can render someone incapable of providing consent. Consent cannot be given by one person in the presence of another if that person could reasonably believe that this would intimidate the other into agreement or silence. Consent cannot be assumed from silence, passivity, or lack of resistance. “No” means no.
Take some time to learn your state’s laws on the subject of consent. Many states have laws that specify certain situations where consent cannot be given legally; for example, if the person is drunk or under the influence of drugs. Under most circumstances, a person under the age of consent cannot give consent to sexual conduct. Consenting to an act is not consenting to its consequences. Consent is not effective if it is obtained from a person who lacks the capacity to give consent because of age.
If you’re insane when you committed the act, you will not be convicted of that crime or punishment. Even if you were legally sane at the time, that will not always mean it was a sound decision—in some states, an insane person can still be held responsible for committing the actions. The insanity plea is often used in legal proceedings to protect people who are deemed to be mentally unfit, or who may claim they were insane when the crime was committed.
In some cases, this can lead to a person getting away with murder or another serious crime. Insanity is usually associated with mental issues, especially in cases of murder and dementia. However, it can also be related to drugs or other disorders that alter one’s mentality.
If you were clinically insane when committing a crime, then the state may still be able to hold you responsible for the act. Many states have laws that define insanity as a mental illness that results in irrational behavior. For example, you could be subject to criminal charges if your actions are caused by bipolar disorder or schizophrenia.