In order for a person to be convicted of a crime, the prosecutor must prove, in trial, beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant is guilty.
At trial, a defendant is given the chance to present a defense that supports whether or not they committed the crime, and if they did commit a crime, a legal reason for why they should not be convicted.
At the beginning of a criminal case a defendant enters a plea at arraignment. An arraignment is when the defendant is formally charged with a crime and the defendant will enter a formal response in the form of a plea. A defendant has three choices guilty (which means I did it), Not Guilty (which means I didn’t do it) or nolo contendere aka no contest (which means I am not saying I did it nor am I saying I didn’t do it. I just feel it is in my best interest to take a plea at this time).
Once the plea is entered, the lawyer does an investigation of the state’s case against their client. Depending on the kind of case it is this process can take 90 days or 2 years. During this time defenses are formulated for trial. While each case is unique the following are the most common defenses presented at trial.
Self defense is a common defense used by people who are charged with a violent crime, like assault and battery. The defendant using this defense usually admits to committing an act, such as hitting someone, but argues that they did so to protect themselves from harm. Thus making the defendant’s actions unintentional and not premeditated. They were a response to a threat against their own safety.
The insanity defense
This defense is used in situations where the defendant suffers from a mental disorder that prevents from understanding right from wrong. If a jury agrees with the insanity defense the defendant is usually not released because they would sent to the state hospital for a long period of time.
The alibi defense
This defense is used when there is proof that the defendant was not present at the time of the alleged offense. This defense requires an eyewitness or evidence that corroborates the defendant’s story that he was not present. This is an incredibility powerful defense and must be disclosed to the State 10 days prior to trial in Florida.
The entrapment defense
Entrapment happens when a person is induced or persuaded, by either law enforcement or its agents, to commit an illegal act that they had no prior intention of committing. But if the person is ready and willing to commit a crime then it is not entrapment. This defense is one I’ve never seen be successful. It only usually works if the defendant has little or no previous criminal history.
Statute of limitations defense
Most crimes must be charged within a certain period of time from when the crime occurred, this is called the statute of limitations. The length of time varies from state to state and crime to crime. More violent crimes, like murder, often do not have a statute of limitations. But for misdemeanors, the time frame can be as little as a few months to a year for the state to charge you. If the statute of limitations passes without a charge, a would-be defendant is free.
If you’re charged with a crime in Broward, Miami-Dade or Palm Beach County give me a call. I might be able to help you through the process. Call now to schedule an appointment.
Houson R. Lafrance