3 Criminal Defense Strategies You May Not Know About

The bedrock of any civilized society is without a doubt the law. Without some definition of innocent and guilty, and law and order, society would inevitably descend into anarchy. Laws exist for the good of both the people and the community as a whole.

Criminal law is a phenomenally complicated thing. There are many philosophies of justice, but society may only have one such theory that governs its statutes. However, laws often change and sometimes in unpredictable ways. For example, take several precedent-setting cases in the United States such as Roe v. Wade or Brown v. Board of Education. These cases are an example of not only the evolution of law and the philosophy of justice but also of the phenomenon that even an initially unassuming case may set an entirely new precedent for criminal law in a society.

Criminal Defense Strategies in DC

It is this volatility that makes criminal defense attorneys, such as Bruckheim & Patel, so important. The quality of a defense can make or break a case, so being aware of criminal defenses and obtaining excellent representation to practice those defenses is without a doubt useful knowledge for the general public.

Here are three criminal defense strategies employed by lawyers in defense of their clients that you may not know about.

1: Defense of Mistake

The law can be a complicated thing, and it is not a strange statement to say that many people are unaware of a good portion of the laws that are governing their lives. Now, it is also important to say at this point that several outdated laws have not yet been amended, but which are also unenforced by law officials. For example, in Alabama, it is illegal to play dominoes on a Sunday. However, should you choose to get into a heated domino game on a Sunday, the chance of you being charged with breaking the law is slim to none.

In a Defense of Mistake, the criminal defense attorney argues that his client was unaware that the law he was charged with breaking was illegal. So, for instance, in Tucson, Arizona it is technically illegal for women to wear pants. Needless to say, many women in Tucson still wear pants. It is doubtful that many Tucson residents are aware of this law. If a Tucson woman was charged with breaking this law; and she was unaware of this law, her attorney could employ a Defense of Mistake in the trial.

A subset of this defense is the Defense of Accident. For example, say a security officer accidentally sent classified information to their partner via text and was reported for doing so. If the defense attorney believed a case could be made for the fact that this action was, in fact, an accident, a Defense of Accident could be made on behalf of the defendant.

2: Defense of Automatism

This defense strategy occurs when a defendant’s attorney argues that the accused experienced a lack of control over any illegal actions he perpetrated, and therefore he cannot be held responsible for the breaking of those laws. A criminal defense attorney will often use this defense strategy when he believes he has sufficient evidence to prove that his client was unable to control his actions or was not able to understand that his activities were illegal at the time they were committed.

For many courts, a distinction is made between what can be referred to legally as ‘sane automatism’ and ‘insane automatism.’ Often, in cases where a defense attorney believes that he can make a good case his client was suffering from insane automatism, the infamous ‘insanity defense’ is employed by the attorney. If the client is indeed found to be legally insane or to have been suffering from insane automatism, the accused will be referred to psychiatric treatment.

3: Defense of Necessity

This defense is used when the criminal defense attorney argues that his client performed illegal actions under exceptional or extenuating circumstances that made those actions, despite being illegal, necessary for the individual to carry out nonetheless. Typically, a court will accept this defense if it meets four widely agreed upon legal criteria:

  • Any illegal act carried out by the accused was performed with the intention to counter a greater evil.
  • There was no reasonable or legal alternative action that the accused could perform.
  • Any illegal act performed could not have been worse than the evil that act was attempting to prevent
  • Any unlawful act performed was effective, or at least semi-effective, at preventing the action of the greater crime it was targeted towards.

Although this defense is compelling, it is not commonly accepted by courts. This is because this defense is more likely than other arguments to set a legal precedent for the actions it is defending if the attorney in charge of the case actually manages to utilize this defense effectively. This occasionally creates unfortunate circumstances for some legal clients. For example, some clients may meet the typical criteria for this defense, to be enacted on their behalf by their attorney, but are still prevented from utilizing this defense due to a court’s fear of setting an unfavorable legal precedent.

Criminal defense law can be incredibly complicated, both for legal clients, as well as for the criminal defense lawyers responsible for arguing the cases of said clients. You have been exposed to three criminal defenses that you may not have been formerly aware of. Hopefully, materials such as these compel you to learn more about the laws governing the society in which you live.

Should you be in search of legal counsel, contact legal professionals, such as Bruckheim & Patel, to help you find the most effective way to defend your case legally.

About Micheal Bruckheim

As a former Prosecutor, Michael Bruckheim has experience on the other side of the aisle. Prior to founding his law office in 2010, Mr. Bruckheim enjoyed a diverse career in litigation at the Office of the Attorney General for the District of Columbia (OAG) serving for over 11 years. He began his OAG career as a prosecutor in the Criminal Section where he conducted numerous bench and jury trials in traffic and criminal misdemeanor matters. Mr. Bruckheim was promoted and served as Chief of the Criminal Section at the OAG where he supervised the prosecution of DUI offenses in the District and directed a staff of over 20 attorneys.