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What Are the Four Major Criminal Law Defenses?

While we wish that our justice system was perfect, sadly, it is not. If you are in need of a Columbia, South Carolina criminal defense attorney, we know just the right people to take your case.

Regardless of guilt or innocence, the US Constitution says that every defendant has the right to a fair and equitable defense under the law. A skilled criminal defense attorney has an array of tools to help the accused plead their case in court. 

There are four major defenses they can present. These are:


The most obvious defense employed in a large number of cases is to simply say, “It wasn’t me.” While every defendant who has ever stood before a judge wished that was the end of it, an assertion of innocence must be backed up by evidence. 

Criminal defense lawyers can attempt to prove innocence in a variety of ways, such as:


If you couldn’t have been at the scene of a crime when it happened, you’re almost certainly off the hook. Getting witness statements or CCTV footage to prove you were in a different location when the crime occurred can instantly get a defendant’s case dismissed. 

Lack of Means or Motive

Suspicious spousal death investigations almost always center on the spouse who is left alive. As if the trauma of losing a loved one wasn’t enough, being accused of their death by the police or state can be devastating. 

Proving a person is innocent is rarely cut and dry in these cases. Sometimes, it’s about creating reasonable doubt in jurors’ minds. One way of doing this is to show that a spouse had little reason or means to kill their significant other. 


The second most common defense is that the accused was defending themselves against harm. 

While self-defense may seem clear-cut, that is not always the case. Knocking an assailant unconscious eliminates the threat. If the accused continued kicking the assailant while they were down, this could be seen as grounds for an assault charge. This may happen even if the assailant themselves is also charged. Situations such as this can end with both parties in jail. 

Constitutional Violations

Having one’s rights violated by a police officer, a court, or a prosecutor is one way in which even the glaringly guilty may be set free. Making exceptions to the founding document of our nation is not something many judges are willing to do without extreme and extenuating circumstances. Judges are often left with little choice but to set defendants free if their constitutional rights have been grossly violated. 


While this defense is more often seen in Hollywood movies than in reality, mental illness as a defense in criminal cases isn’t unheard of. There are many ways a criminal defense attorney may attempt to prove a client was not aware of their actions or was tricked into committing a crime. 


Those under pressure from others or forced to act under threat of harm may be found not liable for their actions if it can be proven that the defendant had no ill intentions and was not the person responsible for the decision-making that led to a crime. 

Genuine Mental Illness or Disability

A criminal defense attorney representing a person who is intellectually disabled or has disconnected from reality may attempt an insanity defense. This defense is complex and open to interpretation, often requiring that experts be called to assess the accused and measure their ability to understand right from wrong. 

Moving Forward

Criminal law is a complicated world, even if there are four primary approaches to defense. Finding someone to represent you who understands the ins and outs of these defenses is key to being treated fairly by the courts. That’s where Strom Law comes in–reach out for a consultation today!




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