In most governments, the entire burden of proof of proving wrongdoing in a criminal trial is by the government. Any defenses that are legitimately put up by the defense must be disproven.
If an individual is accused of a crime, he or she has the right to a trial and the right to be defended by a competent lawyer. It is the skill of the lawyer which many times will save the day for the defendant.
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Without a defense attorney, it is likely that many defendants would be convicted in a hurry, as the government entity has all of the qualified lawyers on staff at its disposal. The district attorney in most jurisdictions holds all the cards and all the resources while the accused holds nothing.
In fairness to the defendant, the advocacy of counsel for the defense is the remedy to offset the preponderance of the government’s apparent resources and workforce.
Every municipal, county, state and federal entity operate under a series of laws, some of which are classified as criminal laws. Criminal laws are those statutes that are held to be gross egregious acts against the government and the people who live in the jurisdiction in which the act was committed.
Consequently, if a person is arrested for allegedly committing such an act, it is assumed that he or she has committed a crime. However, it is also assumed under the law that he or she is innocent until proven guilty. And it is also the duty of the prosecutor to do just that, prove the individual guilty of the act.
When a defense lawyer begins to analyze the defense of a defendant, no stone can be left unturned. One defense mechanism that is often one of the first looked at and accepted as a possibility, or it is eliminated. That is the doctrine of necessity.
The doctrine of necessity simply defines an action that could be described as a criminal act, but that it could be justifiable if it were committed as a necessary act to prevent a more severe crime.
For example, if a burglar were to break in to a person’s home, and the homeowner was caught by surprise, yet was able to get to a weapon, and then the intruder is shot and killed, then the homeowner could fall under this doctrine of necessity. Even though the homeowner committed a crime, the crime of a worse result was halted, where presumably the intruder was there to harm or kill the homeowner.
Self-defense is also a valid defense when a person who is attempting to protect themselves commits a crime in the process against a perpetrator for example. Of course, all of these events have to be proven, and that is sometimes difficult to do.
In many cases, the absolute proven truth is tough to come up with, so a circumstantial event must be put forth, and the assumption to that is that there could be no other scenario that could have possibly occurred, but the one that circumstantially proves the defendant innocent.
Self-defense is a reasonable action that is done to protect one’s self. The action must be reasonable in light of the real, or perceived force that will be coming against the individual. To qualify as self-defense, the applied force must be proportionate to the threat.
This is where a self-defense plea can become challenging and troublesome because it then boils down to the definition of proportionate force. If an intruder is not armed, but you shoot him 14 times, would a jury or a judge deem that as proportionate, or overreaching?
A criminal defendant does have the benefit of the doubt at first, but the tide can quickly turn if the sentiment rests on the side of the victim. Essentially, the defendant’s attorney has only a couple of defense plays. The first is self-defense, which we have already discussed. The second is appropriately a series of proofs that make the situation impossible for the defendant to have committed due to circumstances.
For example, if it can be proven that the defendant was elsewhere at the time of the crime, or the defendant was incapable of committing the crime due to a disability, would be two good reasons of proof that would show he was not the criminal in that case.