Broward Criminal Defense Lawyer Explains Affirmative Defenses

You’re likely familiar with the phrase “innocent until proven guilty” or “proof beyond a reasonable doubt.” As a Broward criminal defense lawyer can further explain, these both reference the fact that the burden of proof in Florida criminal cases is on the prosecutor. As outlined in the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, it’s a basic civil right to be presumed innocent and to require prosecutors to meet certain standards in order to prove the defendant’s guilt. Broward criminal defense lawyer talking to criminal defendant in orange jumpsuit

But there is a way to still win your criminal case even if the prosecutor does meet the proof burden. It’s called an affirmative defense.

In essence, an affirmative defense doesn’t deny the act occurred, but asserts it was either justified or excusable. It does shift the burden of proof from the prosecution to the defense. But if you have the right evidence, you can obtain a favorable outcome: Acquittal or avoiding trial altogether.

Broward Criminal Defense Lawyer on How Defenses Work

At the start of a case, the most likely strategy for your Broward criminal defense lawyer will be to analyze the flaws in the prosecutor’s case. They’ll be looking for weaknesses in the factual elements the prosecutor must establish if they want to get a conviction. If they can effectively raise reasonable doubt for jurors, there’s no need for additional defense.

An affirmative defense, however, is a different approach. Rather than going after the prosecutor’s evidence, y0uor Broward criminal defense lawyer concedes the basic facts, but insists their client should still avoid conviction. In other words, “Yes, it’s true my client did this. However, there are legal grounds that justify/excuse/prevent a conviction.” At that point, the onus is on the defense team to prove the basis for an affirmative defense.

Common Affirmative Defenses in South Florida Criminal Cases

Some of the more common affirmative defenses used in South Florida criminal cases include:

  • Self Defense. This can be raised when the defendant reasonably believed at the time of the alleged crime that they were in imminent danger of bodily harm, and they used some level of force to protect themselves. “Reasonable belief” is often key to these cases. You’ve likely heard of Florida’s Stand Your Ground law. This is an affirmative self-defense argument.
  • Defense of others. Similar to self-defense, it involves the reasonable belief that someone else was in imminent danger of bodily harm and argues use of force to protect that third party.
  • Defense of property. Individuals may be justified in their use of physical force to protect their property from being taken or damage.
  • Lack of criminal intent. Some crimes require prosecutors to prove the defendant had the intention to commit a crime. Burglary and theft are good examples.
  • Entrapment. This defense can be raised when a person is compelled/induced by police to commit a crime they otherwise wouldn’t have. This arises most often when undercover investigations are involved.
  • Miranda rights violation. If you were not informed of your right to remain silent and have an attorney present during questioning, it may be possible to have anything you said during questioning suppressed/not heard by the jury. It’s not an automatic win, but it can be a big blow to the prosecution if your comments to police during that questioning were extremely damaging.
  • Coercion. If you were forced to commit a crime with threats of violence from another person, you might have grounds to have the case tossed or the charges reduced.
  • Statute of limitations expired. Most crimes have a time window during which they can be prosecuted. If that time has passed, the case can no longer be pursued. For instance, a second-degree misdemeanor DUI case must be filed within 1 year. A first-degree misdemeanor for something like simple assault or indecent exposure must be filed within 2 years. Felony cases generally need to be filed within 3-4 years, depending on their severity. Some crimes, like murder, have no statute of limitations.
  • Insanity. F.S. 775.027 holds that all defendants are presumed sane. However, they can raise the affirmative defense if they suffer from a mental illness or defect rendering them incapable of understanding the nature of their actions or that their actions were wrong. This is a tricky one, and should only be used sparingly with very strong evidence.

It’s important to note that with any affirmative defense, it’s not an automatic win. In fact, it can be a risky strategy because you are admitting to all or most of the facts that prosecutors are alleging. But it can be effective in some cases – and demonstrates why you should never presume hope is lost just because the evidence is stacked against you. There are always ways that a Broward criminal defense lawyer can minimize the impact of these charges to your life.

Call Fort Lauderdale Criminal Defense Attorney Richard Ansara at (954) 761-4011. Serving Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties.

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More Blog Entries:

Why Fort Lauderdale Criminal Defense Lawyers Must Combat Evidence-Based Sentencing, Nov. 29, 2023, Broward Criminal Defense Lawyer Blog

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