Law Office of A. Bates Butler III, LLC

Law Office of A. Bates Butler III, LLC - Criminal Defense
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There are a variety of defenses that a criminal defense attorney can use in a criminal case. The first defense is that the prosecutor for the State of Arizona cannot prove each and every element of the criminal offense. In other words, the defendant did not commit a crime. The elements of a criminal offense may be challenged if: Involuntary Acts, Mistake of Fact, Mistake of Law, Impossibility, or Abandonment/ Withdrawal can be established.

Even if the prosecutor is able to prove the defendant committed a crime, a defendant may assert additional defenses, known as Affirmative Defenses. There are two types of affirmative defenses: Justification and Excuse.
Justification defenses are permitted when the defendant’s conduct did not, under the circumstances, violate the law. In other words, the defendant acted properly in a difficult situation. Because the defendant’s conduct was justified, there is nothing to condemn or punish.

Justification Defenses include:
  • Self Defense - A person is justified in using force to protect himself when there is a reasonable fear of death or threat of immediate and grave force against him, for example, a threat to his life.
  • Defense of Others - A person may use force to protect another when he reasonably believes the use of force is necessary to defend another person against an unlawful attack by an aggressor.
  • Defense of Property – In California, a person is permitted to use a limited amount of force to defend property. Since property is not as valuable as human life, deadly force may not be used solely to defend property.
  • Law Enforcement Defense - Law enforcement officers and those acting on behalf of law enforcement officers are justified in using force to apprehend criminal suspects. If a suspect threatens the life of the arresting officer, the officer may act in self-defense and use deadly force to protect his life.
  • Necessity – This defense is a “last-resort” defense that may be used when four requirements are met: the defendant faces a “choice of evils”, there are no apparent legal alternatives, an immediate threat exists, and defendant chooses the lesser harm. And of course, the defendant must not have caused the necessity.

California law recognizes several defenses when a defendant makes a socially wrong choice but does so because he is not capable of controlling his behavior.

Excuse Defenses include:

Duress – The duress defense can be used when an aggressor uses force or threatens to use force if the defendant refuses to commit the crime. The defendant must not have recklessly put himself in the situation and he must believe there is threat of death or bodily harm. This defense may be used for any crime, including homicide.

Intoxication (Involuntary and Voluntary) – Involuntary intoxication may be used as a defense when a person commits a crime that he would not have otherwise committed had he been sober, or if the intoxication puts the defendant in a temporary state of legal insanity. (For example: someone slips a drug into another’s drink, causing the person to hallucinate and commit a crime). Voluntary intoxication defenses are much more restrictive and can be used as a defense to a crime that requires “specific intent”.

Diminished Capacity – Diminished capacity is a controversial and partial defense similar to voluntary intoxication. Evidence of a defendant’s mental condition is used to prove he did not have the mental capacity to commit a specific intent crime.

Insanity – The insanity defense provides a full defense to a criminal charge. This defense is only available if the defendant’s mental disorder kept him from knowing his conduct was wrong. Proving insanity may stop a defendant from being tried or executed for an offense.

Entrapment – A defendant may be excused of committing a crime if he was unfairly induced by a law enforcement agent to commit a crime. There must have been inducement by law enforcement and the defendant must not be inclined to otherwise commit the crime.

Infancy – The law excuses the acts of children age 7 and under because they are too young to be criminally responsible for their actions. Minors between ages 7-14 are presumed incapable of committing a crime (rebuttable by prosecutors). Minors over age 14 have no infancy defense.