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What makes an affirmative defense different?

On Behalf of | Feb 2, 2023 | Criminal Defense

Successfully defending yourself against criminal charges requires careful planning and understanding the law. You also have to make sense of the state’s evidence against you. Most criminal defense strategies depend on the ability to challenge, reinterpret or exclude specific forms of evidence from criminal court.

For example, if the police violated your Fourth Amendment rights by conducting an illegal search, your defense attorney could potentially convince a judge to exclude the evidence secured during that search from your criminal proceedings. Securing testimony from expert witnesses could help you change the perception of certain evidence and help some defendants avoid a conviction.

Unfortunately, this kind of defense strategy is only available in certain cases, such as when the police make mistakes. An affirmative defense strategy could be an option for those facing charges and significant evidence without any way to undermine that evidence or prevent its inclusion in the trial.

What is an affirmative defense?

The main difference between a standard criminal defense and an affirmative defense is that the defendant does not try to claim that they didn’t commit a certain act. Instead, their goal is to prove that their actions were not criminal.

One of the most common affirmative defenses is a claim of self-defense in response to a homicide or assault charge. People can lawfully use physical force to defend themselves against the aggressions of other people without violating the law. Coercion into criminal acts, including threats against you or your family members, could also create the basis for an affirmative defense.

If someone drugged you without your knowledge, you may not be culpable for what you did while under the influence of those substances. A lack of criminal intent caused by cognitive incapacity or even temporary insanity could also be grounds for an affirmative defense.

If someone can show that they did not intend to break the law for that they feared for their own safety, the courts may eventually determine that while their actions could be a crime, they did not do something worthy of a criminal conviction.

Affirmative defense strategies depend on perspective

To convince a judge or jury members that you acted appropriately, you will have to help them understand your state of mind at the time of the incidents and build a compelling case for why you acted the way you did. You will likely need extensive support to develop a successful affirmative defense strategy.

Discussing the charges you face and the evidence against you with a lawyer is often the first step in developing a workable criminal defense strategy given your circumstances.