In 2020, Virginia state police made over 200,000 arrests. Not all of these cases result in a criminal conviction. Many of these individuals raise an effective criminal defense that results in the dismissal of their charges or being found innocent. When representing a client facing criminal charges, we use several possible defenses. Here are nine types of criminal defenses that could be used.
To commit a crime, you need to be present at the time of the crime. Using an alibi defense shows that you couldn’t have committed the crime because you were somewhere else when the crime took place. You can prove this through witness testimony or time-dated evidence, such as a receipt or video surveillance.
With a duress defense, you admit that you committed the act that was a crime. However, you only did so under duress or imminent threat. The threat needs to be something that would compel someone to act and needs to be happening when you committed the act. For example, false imprisonment, force, torture, or psychological harm.
This defense is often misunderstood, as specific legal standards must be met for it to apply. Virginia uses a combination of the M’Naghten and irresistible impulse tests. It is rarely successful and not something you can fake to avoid punishment. To be used these elements must be present:
- Did not understand the nature, character, and consequences of the act, or
- Was unable to distinguish right from wrong, or
- Was driven by an irresistible impulse to commit the act
4. Self Defense
If you are charged with a violent crime involving physical harm, self-defense may be a defense option. With this defense, you admit to doing the act. However, you did so in self-defense.
Some limitations come with this defense. First, the amount of force you use to defend yourself must be reasonable for the threat level. For example, if someone throws a beer bottle at you, you cannot respond by shooting them. This would be escalating the situation and responding in a more extreme manner than what is reasonable. In addition, you cannot use deadly force to defend property, only people.
The police are not allowed to entice or convince you to commit a crime and then punish you for committing said crime. To raise this defense, you must not have a history of acting in a way that would predispose you to commit the crime. Things like prior arrests, convictions, and conduct get brought into question. There is a difference between offering the opportunity and convincing someone to commit a crime. In addition, a private citizen cannot entrap another private citizen. This is criminal solicitation, which is a separate crime.
6. Statute of Limitations
The law outlines a limited amount of time that legal proceedings must begin by. Most misdemeanors in Virginia have a statute of limitations of one year. However, there are exceptions to this, so if you’re facing misdemeanor charges, speaking with a lawyer can help you understand the limits for your specific charge. Felonies do not have a statute of limitations. This means that you can be charged and tried for a crime at any point after committing it.
7. Failure to Read Miranda Rights
Your charges are not automatically dropped because the officer failed to read your Miranda Rights. However, failing to do so may eliminate the police interrogation from evidence. This could reduce the evidence available to the prosecutor to use against you.
8. Unlawful Search and Seizure
As an American citizen, you are afforded the right to protection from unreasonable search and seizure under the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments. You have these rights:
- You cannot be arrested or held in custody without probable cause
- You cannot be pulled over while driving without a reason
- You cannot be searched for drugs or weapons without probable cause
If an unlawful search and seizure happen, it could result in the dismissal of your case. In addition, if evidence is seized, it could be suppressed, rendering it inadmissible in court.
9. Unreliable Witness Testimony
If the prosecution brings in an unreliable witness, you can include this in your defense. The human mind is not perfect when remembering people and events. If the witness misidentifies you, this can work in your favor. In addition, a witness becomes unreliable if they were using alcohol or drugs at the time of the event. Finally, a witness’ motive can be brought into question. This can cast doubt on why they say it was you and not someone else.