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Understanding Affirmative Defenses

Not all court cases are the same. Could you imagine a scenario in which the prosecution did its job of successfully proving their case, yet the defense still wins? This is what happens with an affirmative defense. Yes, the defendant did the crime, and the criminal defense law firm they hired is not saying otherwise. The difference here is that there was a good reason for the crime to have been committed, or there’s an alternative explanation that the jury accepts and understandable in that given situation. We see it happen all the time.

One good example of an affirmative defense is self-defense. Yes, the defendant killed that person, but they were only defending themselves. A jury would by that any day of the week. A plea of insanity is another. Other issues include a statute of limitations for a crime committed a long time ago. These types of defenses can be quite controversial, but they do have a basis in helping to protect a person’s basic rights and can be a legitimate defense. 

The Intricacies of a Proper Defense

We all know that it is against the law to kill someone. The problem for the prosecution is that the law isn’t always black and white. There are a lot of different scenarios and pieces that have to come together exactly right to convince a jury that a murder was committed. There must always be a lack of reasonable doubt. This is how some people who commit murder win their defense. There’s also intent, the defendant’s mental state, whether they were acting in self-defense, and a host of other issues to prove.

Killing another person isn’t always murder, either. Let us say you own a restaurant that serves a customer tainted food and they die. Was that murder? No. It was a complete accident and the prosecution would not be able to prove intent to kill. No reasonable prosecutor would try to get a murder charge out of this because it would nearly be impossible. Instead, they would look at other potential laws that were broken that led to the tainted food being served.

Using the Affirmative Defense to Your Advantage

Sometimes, there is just no beating the evidence the prosecution has. A person died; the defendant clearly did the killing. There’s fingerprint evidence, eyewitnesses, etc. So, what can the defense do to help their client? Well, there might be additional evidence that they present to the court that helps their affirmative defense and is accepted by the jury. Proving the affirmative defense strategy can negate all the proof the prosecution has. 

Using this same example, the prosecution has to prove intent. Yes, the defendant intended to kill the victim, but that’s not the whole story. The victim attacked the defendant first and they have proof of that fact. He/she was only defending themselves. Self-defense is a reasonable and acceptable defense that can justify the murder. Many states make this acceptable.

For example, Florida has a law in place called “stand-your-ground” which allows for deadly force to be used in self-defense. We saw this play out in the Trayvon Martin case a few years back.