I. Insufficient Evidence

The most common defense use in Criminal Defense is that there simply isnā€™t enough evidence to convict you of the charge. This could be from overzealous police officers/prosecutors that are overconfident in their own abilities. It could also someone lying, pointing the blame at you simply to gain something unrelated. It could even be a mistake, being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

II. Statute of Limitations

One of the most common questions asked is whether you can still be prosecuted for an offense. Typically these calls occur when a person has done something that they feel could be a crime, and are anxiously calling around attorneys to find out whether they should be worried, or very worried.

III. Mistake of Fact

One of the most confusingly worded defenses in all of Criminal Law is Mistake of Fact. I will start with simply posting the California Jury Instruction as a juror would receive it:

The defendant is not guilty of (the crime) if he did not have the intent or mental state required to commit the crime because he reasonably did not know a fact or reasonably and mistakenly believed a fact. If the defendantā€™s conduct would have been lawful under the facts as he reasonably believed them to be, he did not commit.

IV. Violation of your Rights

This could happen in many ways, such as your Miranda Warning being violated, or that police committed an illegal search and seizure of you or your property. These are considered ā€œtechnicalā€ defenses, because they do not mean you are not guilty of a crime, but they are simply defenses against certain evidence that was obtained, that we would argue should not be admissible in Court against you.

V. Reasonable Mistake as to Age

In some, but not all Sex Cases, a common defense is that you did not believe the person you were speaking to or with was actually underage. For example, in PC 647.6(a)(1) cases, the prosecutor has to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you knew the person you were speaking to was actually underage. This can be shown through direct evidence, such as a text conversation where the minor says they are under 18. Or through circumstantial evidence, where the person mentions they are in middle school, the minor looks very young, mentions they do not have a driverā€™s license, etc. But if the mistake as to the minorā€™s age is reasonable, then it is a complete defense to a charge.

VI. Reasonable Belief as to Consent

If you reasonably believed that the person you were with consented to the sexual act you performed, then you would not be guilty of the alleged crime. A common example is PC 289 ā€“ where you were under the belief that the other party reasonably had consented to what you had done or were doing to them at the time. This of course must be reasonable.

VII. Intoxication

This defense does not mean that if you were too drunk while committing the crime, that you cannot be found guilty of it. It simply means that if you are under the influence of any drugs or alcohol that you did not choose to consume, then you are not guilty of the crime alleged. However, if you do voluntary choose to intoxicate yourself, that by itself could act as a defense to ā€œSpecific Intentā€ crimes, because your intoxication would be able to negate the Specific Intent to commit the crime.

VIII. Insanity

Insanity is a very complex topic to cover in a short post, but we will discuss the significance of it, as it relates to California Criminal Defense.

You were legally insane if:

  1. When you committed the crime, you had a mental disease or defect; AND
  2. Because of that disease or defect, you were incapable of knowing or understanding the nature and quality of your act or were incapable of knowing or understanding that your act was morally or legally wrong.

IX. Entrapment

Entrapment occurs when police, or their agents, encourage or promote the crime by way of their overbearing conduct. For example, if an undercover police officer entices a defendant to commit prostitution by repeat and insistent requests, or appeals to the sympathy or friendship of the defendant, and the defendant thereafter commits the crime as a result of the overbearing conduct, the police officer may have entrapped the defendant to commit the crime. The idea has to be formed in the mind of police, and not on the Defendant, in order to successfully use this defense.

X. Necessity

To show that you can use the defense of Necessity, you must show that: you committed a crime;

  1. in an emergency, and
  2. in order to prevent ā€œsignificant bodily harm or evilā€ to either yourself or someone else.

XI. Self Defense

In California, you are allowed to use force against another person if the you reasonably believe that you must use force to defend yourself against the threat of immediate harm. In other words, if you are threatened with an attack, you have the right to defend yourself, and fight back.

The amount of force you can use to defend must be reasonable in relation to the threatened harm. For example, if a person bumps into you or pushes you, you cannot go into your home and get a chainsaw to cut the other person to pieces. If someone strikes you with their hand, reasonable responses would dictated you would be able to defend yourself by also using your hands to strike back.

XII. Claim of Right/Title

When you obtain property under claim of right or title, that means you are claiming an item is your item, or that you had permission to possess that item. ThisĀ defenseĀ negates the requisite intent needed for most theft crimes.

You obtained property under a claim of right if you believed in good faith thatĀ you had a right to the speciļ¬c property or a speciļ¬c amount of money, and you then openly took it.

In this case, you may hold a belief in good faith even if the belief is mistaken or unreasonable. But if you were aware of facts that made that belief completely unreasonable, then the claim is not reasonable. For example, showing up to a dealership and taking a car for a test drive and keeping that car forever, is not reasonable.

XIII. Duress

You cannot be found guilty of a crime if you acted under Duress.Ā A person actsĀ under duress if, because of a threat or menace,Ā you believed that you orĀ someone elseā€™s life would be in immediate danger if you refused a demand or request to commit the crimes.

For example, a person tells you that your family has been kidnapped, and if you do not rob a specific bank, they will be killed. They then show you pictures of your family in distress. Here, you thought your family was in imminent fear of death if you failed to follow the directions of the kidnappers.

XIV. False Accusations

False accusations are not technically considered a ā€œdefenseā€ in criminal law. In essence, the defense of false accusations comes from a person who falsely blames you for a crime you did not commit. So in essence, there is a witness that is blaming you for the crime, and you are claiming you are innocent. In many other defenses under California law, you are guilty of the crime, but there is technical defense that prevents a conviction, different than here.

XV. Coerced Confessions

Why would an innocent person ever confess to a crime? How could a complete crime-free person, tell police they committed a crime that they didnā€™t in fact commit? This happens more often than you think, and it happens through overbearing police conduct. A coerced confession is a confession to a crime, that comes out involuntarily by overbearing police conduct. It is overborn because, but for the policeā€™s outrageous conduct, you would have not otherwise confessed to the crime you are being accused of.