Understanding Common Criminal Law Defenses | Half Price Lawyers

Understanding Common Criminal Law Defenses

When you’re facing a criminal charge, you may wonder how your attorney builds your defense. Defending a criminal charge starts with evaluating possible defenses and their chances for success. No two cases and no two defendants are alike.

That makes it essential for an attorney to spend the time getting to know the client and carefully evaluating the case. It’s important to understand the different types of defenses available for better insight into the work your Las Vegas criminal defense attorney is doing on your behalf. Here are some of the most common defenses in criminal cases.

Lack of Probable Cause

To convict you of a criminal offense, law enforcement must have the authority to stop you and investigate. In the United States, you have constitutional rights. That means the police can’t just stop and investigate you for a crime unless they have a good reason to believe that you’re committing a crime. In some cases, they need a search warrant to conduct a search and seizure.

The police can’t arrest someone based on suspicion alone. Instead, they have to be able to articulate their reasons for making an investigation and arrest. If the police may have violated your rights by investigating you without the proper authority, you can work with your attorney to bring this to the court’s attention before your case goes to trial. If the court agrees with you, they might dismiss your case.

A Crime Didn’t Occur

Sometimes, the police charge innocent people. They might suspect you of drunk driving when you were only tired. The police might make an error calibrating their breath test machine that results in an incorrect reading. Maybe they believe you stole property when you’re just borrowing it with permission.

The police might even be confused on what a law means and what types of behaviors the law prevents. When that happens, you can challenge the charges on the grounds that the crime didn’t occur. This requires presenting evidence to the jury and possibly arguing your point to the judge about the interpretation of the laws.

Affirmative Defenses

You might agree that you committed a crime but disagree that you’re legally responsible for your actions. There are a number of reasons that you might argue that you’re not legally responsible for a crime.


Duress occurs when a person forces or threatens another person into taking a specific action. For example, if a person puts a gun to your head and tells you to rob a bank, you’re acting under duress. The same duress argument exists when a person makes threats to coerce you into taking a particular action.


If you’re unable to appreciate the consequences of your actions, you can argue that you’re not guilty by reason of insanity. To commit a crime, you must have the right frame of mind. That is, you can’t commit a crime if you can’t understand what you’re doing or the reasonable consequences of your actions.

Making a case for your insanity is a somewhat complicated undertaking. If you’re going to use an insanity defense, it’s essential to talk with an attorney about what it involves and the potential outcomes.

Self-Defense and Defense of Others

Self-defense and defense of others may be a viable defense for a number of different assault-related crimes. To win your case based on a claim of self-defense, you must show that you think you are in imminent danger of an assault or battery.

It’s okay if your belief is mistaken; as long as you had a reasonable belief of impending danger, you’re allowed to defend yourself. You can also defend someone else under the same circumstances in which a person would be able to defend themselves.


Some crimes require the state to prove that you acted with specific intent. That is, you absolutely knew what you set out to do. Examples of these types of crimes are burglary and premeditated murder. You might argue that you’re not guilty of the offense based on voluntary intoxication. In that case, you might say that the alcohol or drugs prevented you from forming the requisite intent for the crime.

You might also argue that your intoxication was involuntary. This defense is rare, and it presents some challenges. The defense might arise in a case where a person forces another to consume intoxicants or tricks a person into consuming them.


Even with good intentions, law enforcement officers can’t encourage or persuade people to commit crimes. To put it simply, the police can’t set people up. This is called entrapment. The police can conduct a sting to catch people who already have the frame of mind to commit a crime. However, when the police take it too far, you may have a viable defense.

Honest Mistakes

An honest mistake can sometimes look like a crime. You might pick up the wrong bag at the gym and face a larceny charge. You might hold onto an item for a friend and find out the hard way that it has drugs in it.

When these things happen, you can try to explain to the court and the jury that you made an honest mistake. In some cases, a reasonable and legitimate mistake is a defense to the charges. In other cases, it’s not.

Other Defenses

There are other defenses that you might assert in your criminal case. These include:

  • Alibi
  • Forced confession
  • Abandonment of plan
  • Bill of attainder
  • The law is too vague
  • Mistaken identity

Your attorney can help you determine if any of these defenses apply to your case.

Building Your Best Defense

Defending yourself against criminal charges involves carefully evaluating your case to determine the best possible defenses. You must assert some defenses before trial if you’re going to raise them at all.

For other defenses, you must work at skillfully building evidence to show the jury the validity of the criminal defense. It’s important to work with an experienced Las Vegas criminal defense lawyer as quickly as possible when you’re facing a criminal charge. They can help you determine the best defenses in your case and help you assert them.

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