What are Common Criminal Defense Strategies?

Posted on: August 3, 2020

If someone has been charged with a serious crime, they could face very steep fines and possible jail time. Even if the charges are dropped, or the person is found innocent, the charges alone could cause permanent damage to relationships with family, friends, and colleagues. When someone’s freedom and reputation are on the line, it is crucial that they hire an experienced criminal defense lawyer who can develop an effective criminal defense strategy.

The lawyer will review the facts of the case and proceed with the defense strategy that gives the defendant the best possible chance of maintaining their freedom and protecting their reputation. If mistakes were made by law enforcement, this could improve the defendant’s chances of a successful defense and may even result in charges being dropped.

What is a Criminal Defense Strategy?

Defense strategies are legal arguments and supporting evidence that a criminal defense lawyer uses to protect his or her client and secure their freedom. There are several factors that a criminal defense lawyer must consider when developing an effective defense strategy, including the credibility of the defense and prosecution witnesses, the community’s attitude toward the defendant, and the strength of the prosecution’s evidence. The best defense strategies are ones that present the defendant in the best light possible. A criminal defense lawyer will need to develop the most convincing story about the defendant’s situation. This should include the following characteristics:

  • Truthful foundation of evidence
  • Ability to gain sympathy from the judge
  • A convincing explanation as to why the events that occurred in the defendant’s story were the actual events

Important Elements of a Solid Criminal Defense Strategy

There are several key elements that are necessary to have a successful criminal defense strategy, which include:

  • Solid evidence: A skilled criminal defense lawyer will be able to examine all the evidence that is available and use only the evidence that is favorable toward his or her client.
  • Good explanation: If a person is charged with a crime, it is likely that the prosecution has compelling evidence that connects them to the scene of the crime. A criminal defense lawyer will work closely with the defendant to prove that they could not have committed the crime or offer a valid reason as to why their actions were justifiable.
  • Sufficient preparation: A criminal defense lawyer will prepare the case by collecting additional exhibits, illustrations, and witness testimonies. The defendant may be called to testify if their lawyer believes it will have a positive impact on the case.

What is the Most Common Defense Strategy?

The most common defense strategy used by criminal defense lawyers is showing prosecution failed to prove the defendant is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. The defense attorney will raise questions about the credibility of the prosecution’s witnesses to create doubt in the minds of jurors, and ultimately acquit the defendant. The following tactics are used to create doubt:

  • Poke holes in witness testimonies to suggest that they might be lying.
  • Point out mistakes that police made while gathering, maintaining, and testing physical evidence.
  • Suggest that a witness may have been bribed by the prosecution for offering testimony against the defendant in exchange for immunity from pending criminal charges.
  • Argue the testimony is not believable because it lacks common sense or logic.

What are the Main Categories of Criminal Defense Strategies?

Criminal defense strategies are based on whether the defendant actually committed the crime. The following defense strategies are used if the defendant did not commit the crime:

  • Lack of proof: Our legal system states that defendants are innocent until proven guilty, and the prosecution has the burden of proving, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the defendant is guilty. The job of the criminal defense lawyer is not to prove his or her client’s innocence, but to present enough credible evidence to convince the judge that there is reasonable doubt that his or her client is guilty of the crime.
  • Alibi: An alibi presents evidence proving that the defendant was somewhere else at the time of the crime. For example, if the defendant was accused of committing a crime at a convenience store at 10:00 p.m. on a Friday evening, but he or she was at work when the crime was committed, the alibi can result in charges being dropped.

The following defense strategies are used if the defendant committed the crime, but should not be penalized:

  • Self-defense: If there are multiple individuals involved in an assault, it can be difficult for police officers to determine who should be charged. Even if one of the parties involved was acting in self-defense, he or she may still be charged. To fight these charges, it will be necessary to prove that the physical contact was done in self-defense, and that failure to act would have compromised the individual’s safety.
  • Consent: This defense may be used if a police officer mistook consensual activity as a crime.
  • Insanity: The insanity defense is defined as the inability to distinguish right from wrong. When pursuing this line of defense, it is necessary to obtain evidence or testimonials from a psychiatrist or another qualified mental health professional. Even if charges against the defendant are dropped, he or she may still be subject to rehabilitation.
  • Under the influence: This defense will work only if the person committed a crime while under the influence, and it can be proven that he or she was not in their right mind when they committed the crime. It is unlikely that this will result in an acquittal, but the defendant may face lesser charges.
  • Entrapment:  When a law enforcement official coerces someone into committing a crime, this is entrapment. A criminal defense lawyer will use this line of defense to fight criminal charges.

If the client confesses to committing the crime, a criminal defense lawyer still has a responsibility to the client. For example, if a defendant confessed to breaking into a car and stealing the money that was in the glove compartment, a criminal defense lawyer will need to develop a defense strategy based on the case information that is available. If an eyewitness cannot identify the defendant with 100 percent certainty, the defendant’s lawyer may base the defense strategy on the fact that the police used a weak eyewitness.

In addition, if the police officer did not inform the defendant of his or her right to be silent, or the right to have an attorney present when being questioned, the defense attorney can use this information to request that the confession to police be omitted based on the fact that the police officer did not read the defendant a Miranda warning.

What Law Enforcement Mistakes Lead to Dismissed Charges?

In a criminal case, there are specific protocols that police officers must follow. If a police officer tries to cut corners, arrests a defendant without probable cause, or fails to follow police procedure, the charges against the defendant could be dropped. The following are examples of mistakes that can result in the case being dismissed:

  • Lack of probable cause: Police officers must have probable cause to justify an arrest. A criminal defense lawyer may argue that a police officer believed that the defendant was guilty, even though there was no evidence to indicate that a crime was committed.
  • Denying legal representation: If a defendant clearly requests a lawyer, the police officer must discontinue questioning the defendant. If the police officer continues to question the defendant after he or she made this request, a criminal defense lawyer can use this information to build his or her case.
  • Incorrect administration of a Breathalyzer test: If the defendant was arrested for drunk driving, but the arresting officer did not correctly administer a Breathalyzer test, a criminal defense lawyer may challenge the results.

Whether the defendant confessed to the crime, or maintains his or her total innocence, it is imperative that he or she is completely honest with their lawyer. If damaging information comes out during the trial, and a lawyer is blindsided, it can be very damaging to the case. The prosecution can start to poke holes in the case, and the defense strategy will be less effective. 

Freehold Criminal Defense Lawyers at Ellis Law Develop Effective Defense Strategies for Those Accused of a Crime

If you or someone you know was accused of a crime, contact the Freehold criminal defense lawyers at Ellis Law at your earliest convenience. We will thoroughly examine all the evidence and develop an effective defense strategy. To schedule a free consultation, call us today at 732-308-0200 or contact us online. Located in Freehold, New Jersey, we serve clients throughout East Brunswick, Toms River, Middletown, Jersey City, Neptune, Hudson County, Union County, Essex County, and Ocean County, as well as Brooklyn and New York, New York.

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