Criminal Defenses

Legal Defenses To Criminal Offenses

criminal defenses Depending on the criminal offense charged, there may be a valid legal defense that can be raised. The following is a non-exhaustive list of legal defenses that may be applicable to your case:

1. Accident

Most of the criminal offenses covered in the California Penal Code involve intentional offenses in which the perpetrator purposefully committed the act in question. Thus, if the conduct in question was accidental, there is a valid defense against the charge.

An example of this would be Theft Crimes under California Penal Code Section 484(a) PC (Petty Theft) and California Penal Code Section 487(a) PC (Grand Theft). People often walk out of stores accidentally carrying an item from the store with them. These people would have a valid defense against charges of Theft, as theft requires that the person accused of stealing to have intentionally taken the item.

Some offenses do not have an intent requirement, and thus claiming that the conduct was accidental would not be a defense. One example would be DUI Manslaughter, in which the reckless behavior of the driver replaces any requirement that the action be intentional to be criminal.

2. Alibi

This is an important defense in which the defendant cannot be guilty of a particular offense because they were somewhere else when the crime took place and therefore could not have committed the alleged act.

It is very important to be able to corroborate any alibi for it to hold weight. This can include witness statements and physical evidence (such as plane tickets or receipts) that show where an individual was at a certain place and time and thus show that the person was not present when and where the crime occurred.

3. Coerced or False Confessions

In many instances, police have been known to compel false confessions from otherwise innocent suspects by using various psychological techniques and tactics to produce confessions, as well as threats and even physical harm.

These tactics can include persistent questioning, sleep or food deprivation, harming or threatening harm or making promises to induce a confession.

If a defendant can show that their confession came as a result of one of these tactics, they may be successful in having the confession thrown out.

Coerced and false confession are often prevalent with Juvenile Crimes, when minors may feel overwhelmed and pressured into confessing to something they did not do.

4. Duress

If someone commits a crime only because they felt they were in immediate danger, their actions may be excused under the defense of duress.

An example would be if someone was involved in a routine traffic accident in an unfamiliar neighborhood and suddenly friends of the other party involved surround the first car and threaten violence. If that driver subsequently drives away, he or she could theoretically be charged with Hit and Run pursuant to California Vehicle Code Section 20001 VC. In this case, there would be a valid duress defense because they only reason the driver fled the scene because of the valid and reasonable fear for their own safety.

5. Entrapment

Entrapment occurs when someone only commits an offense due to the harassment, threats or extreme coercion on the part of law enforcement agents. This defense is most likely applicable in undercover sting operations in which law enforcement try to catch people committing crimes such as Lewd Conduct pursuant to California Penal Code Section 647(a) PC.

The entrapment defense is most effective when it can be shown that police pushed the limits by acting too aggressively in getting normally law-abiding people to violate the law.

6. False Accusations

It is often the case that people are charged with crimes they did not commit based on the false accusation of another. In certain types of offenses, such as Domestic Violence, the words of the accuser are taken very seriously, even if there are no accompanying injuries.

When someone is falsely accused of a crime, a criminal defense attorney can attempt to get the accuser to provide a recanting statement or otherwise point out contradictions in the original accusation.

7. Insanity

The insanity defense in California is difficult to prove, as California employs the strict M’Naghten standard. Under this test, one can only be qualify for an insanity defense if they are unable to understand the nature of their act or if they lack the ability to tell between right and wrong.

In certain cases, a defendant may be deemed unfit to stand trial and be placed on an involuntary psychiatric hold under California Welfare and Institutions Code 5150 WC until they can be made competent again.

8. Lack of Probable Cause (PC)

The U.S. and California Constitutions require law enforcement agents to have probable cause that an individual has committed a crime before they can justify a stop, search and arrest of that person.

When probable cause is absent, the defendant can challenge the stop, search or arrest for lack of Probable Cause by making a motion to suppress pursuant to California Penal Code 1538.5 PC. When the evidence is suppressed, the People usually must dismiss the case because they are unable to proceed.

9. Mistake of Fact

If a defendant’s action was prompted by a mistake of fact, and not malicious intent, then they are not guilty of certain criminal offenses. For example, if someone picked up a laptop computer that was left at a coffee shop mistaking it for their own, they cannot be charged with theft if later it is determined that the laptop in fact belonged to someone else.

This defense is only effective where the mistake of fact is reasonable.

10. Necessity

The defense of necessity can be raised when a person must commit a crime to avoid harm or danger and there is no other viable course of action but to commit a criminal offense.

An example is where someone who has consumed alcohol is suddenly put into a situation where there is an immediate and unavoidable threat to their life, such as someone threatening them with a weapon. If this person drives away in a car they are technically committing Driving Under Influence pursuant to California Vehicle Code 23152 VC. However, there is a legitimate argument that the driving was a necessity to avoid an immediate threat to life.

11. Self-Defense / Defense of Others

California allows people to use appropriate force to defend themselves (or others) when the force used is reasonable and escape is not a viable option. Self Defense is most often raised to counter charges of Assault and even Murder pursuant to California Penal Code 187 PC.

12. Unconscious / Involuntary Intoxication

For people who were either physically unconscious or were under the influence of an intoxicant because they were unwittingly drugged when they committed a criminal offense, the fact that they were not conscious of their actions is a defense to subsequent criminal charges. If the person was not conscious of their behavior, they did not have the required malicious intent to be held criminally liable for their actions. Note that this defense does not apply to cases involving voluntary intoxication, although this factor may be taken into account depending on the offense.

Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney Michael Kraut is a former Deputy District Attorney with over 14 years of prosecutorial experience who is highly skilled at mounting successful defenses to criminal charges. Mr. Kraut is highly regarded by prosecutors and law enforcement alike as a fierce defender of his clients’ rights who can skillfully mount the best defense possible. If you or a loved have been charged with a criminal offense in the Los Angeles area, it is crucial that you contact Mr. Kraut immediately.

For more information about Legal Defenses, and to schedule your free consultation, contact Los Angeles Defense Attorney Michael Kraut at the Kraut Law Group. Mr. Kraut can be reached 24/7 at 888-334-6344 or 323-464-6453.

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