That is not a defense to that crime – When someone is charged with a crime, they have the presumption of innocence and it is up to the government to prove the defendant guilty of all elements of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt. This can be done through a criminal trial, or the defendant can admit guilt through a plea. Something that is also available to those charged with a crime are affirmative defenses.
We discuss defense strategies in a previous blog, this blog will focus on what is NOT a good defense. We think it is important for clients to care about their case and participate in their defense, however, some of the defenses (excuses) suggested to us are harmful, unlawful, and just wouldn’t work. This blog focuses on some of the popular ones we have heard over the years.
She told me she was eighteen
He hit me first, so I retaliated
This is not a defense to assault, or any other violent crime. Self defense is an affirmative defense to many violent crimes, but self defense has a specific legal meaning. It is not simple a matter of “he hit me first, so I am allowed to legally hit him back”.
Please note that self-defense, however, is a valid legal defense. What we are referring to here is not self-defense but rather the proposition that because someone once hit you, you can retaliate and hit them back.
We were dating at the time
This is not a defense to forcible rape or just about any other sex crime. Some people have the misconception that you can’t rape someone you are in a relationship with. This is far from true. At one point in history it wasn’t possible to be charged with rape in a husband and wife situation, but those days are long gone. We have also heard this proposed as a defense to assault charges. It is not a defense to assault charges.
I was drunk or high at the time
This is not a defense to any general intent crime, and it is very complicated regarding whether it could be a defense for a specific intent crime. The fact that you were drunk is not usually going to be a valid defense and it will almost always be a terrible primary strategy.
But she went out drinking with her friends afterwards
This is also not a defense to any sex crime. We have had clients try to convince us that if we just tell the jury that, “she went out drinking with her friends afterwards so she couldn’t have gotten raped”, this is a terrible argument to make on so many different levels, that we would not have enough room to discuss all the reasons why, here.
I did it to feed my drug habit
This is not a defense to anything. Unfortunately, drug addiction is the reason that a lot of people commit crimes out of sheer desperation. Though it can be a mitigating factor in for sentencing purposes in some instances, it is rarely a legal justification or a legal excuse.
Criminal defense is complicated. If you have been charged with a crime, hire an attorney and let them do their job.