5 Common Criminal Defense Strategies

Common Criminal Defense Strategies

If you have been charged with committing a criminal offense you are undoubtedly worried about the outcome of your case. Depending on the severity of the charges against you, a conviction could mean the loss of your freedom, family, and future.

The most important step for you to take is to retain the services of an experienced Nebraska criminal defense attorney to represent you and develop a defense. If you have never been a defendant in a criminal prosecution before, you may be wondering what type of defense your attorney will use in your case.

Because every prosecution involves a unique set of facts and circumstances, you will have to consult with your criminal defense attorney to find out what your defense strategy will be; however, to give you an idea of how a criminal defense attorney might approach your case, consider the following five common criminal defense strategies.

5 Common Criminal Defense Strategies

  1. Wrong person. A common defense strategy is to claim that the police arrested the wrong person. Obviously, this defense strategy only works in cases where the perpetrator of the crime was not previously known to a victim or witnesses and where there is no direct physical evidence linking you to the crime.
  2. Self-defense. In the U.S. criminal justice system, the prosecutor has the burden of proving the defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. The prosecutorial burden stems from one of the founding principles of the U.S. justice system – the idea that you are innocent until proven guilty. In practical terms, this means that you are not required to present any defense when charged with a crime. Instead, the prosecution must do all the work to prove your guilt.  There are, however, some defenses that are referred to as “affirmative defenses” because the defendant is required to prove the defense. Self-defense is one of those affirmative defenses, meaning that if you claim self-defense you must present evidence to support your claim. If you meet the requirements of a self-defense claim, however, it can result in an acquittal.
  3. Illegally obtained evidence. If your case involved a search and seizure, there is a possibility that the search was conducted illegally. The U.S. Constitution protects us against unreasonable searches and seizures by requiring a law enforcement officer to first obtain a warrant based on probable cause before conducting a search. Although the warrant requirement has been watered down by the courts over the years, there are still safeguards in place to protect you against an illegal search and seizure. If the search was potentially conducted illegally, your drug defense attorney can challenge the search. If the court agrees that is was an illegal search, any evidence seized as a result of the search is inadmissible at trial.
  4. Unreliable informant/witness. Claiming that a witness or informant is unreliable is another promising defense strategy in some cases. The judge or jury gets to decide whether or not they believe a witness. If the defense attorney can make the witness appear inconsistent, or catch him/her in a lie, the judge/jury is much less likely to believe his/her testimony. If the police used an informant, your attorney can attack the reliability of the information obtained from him/her. Although the police can use informants, the police must first deem the individual to be reliable and must be closely monitored while working for the police. All too often these safeguards are not observed to the extent that they should be. If that was the case in your situation, your attorney can challenge the use of the informant.
  5. You can’t prove it. Finally, the simplest defense of all – the State cannot prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Sometimes, a case is so weak, and the evidence entirely circumstantial, that the best defense is no defense. Your attorney may simply decide to rest after the State’s case without presenting a defense and count on the judge or jury to realize that the State has failed in its burden to prove you guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.