Criminal Law Defenses

Just as there are a wide variety of criminal charges in Alabama, there are also a variety of defenses to those criminal charges.  Basically, a criminal defense does one of three things: (1) it challenges the identity of the person who committed the crime, (2) it questions whether the elements of the offense have been met, or (3) it argues that the defendant’s actions were justified for some reason that makes those action lawful.

What is a justification defense?

A justification defense is basically a way to take what would otherwise be considered criminal conduct and explain why, under the particular circumstances, it should not be punishable.  In most cases, this involves a situation where the actions were taken to protect someone.  The most common example of a justification defense is “self-defense.”  However, duress and necessity can also be the basis of a justification defense.

The legal concept of self-defense

Self-defense is most likely the most widely known justification defense. When this defense is offered, the defendant is admitting the unlawful actions, such as intentionally injuring someone, but that person was actually the aggressor.  The defendant would argue that the actions were taken because he was in fear for his life and trying to protect himself.  This defense is not always successful.  In most cases, the key is to show balance.  The amount of force used in defending oneself, for example, must be only what was reasonably necessary.

Defenses of duress and necessity

Also recognized as justification defenses are duress and necessity. Duress is when another person threatens or unduly pressures someone into committing a crime.  This defense can be tricky because, if there was any way the defendant could have reasonably refused the defense may not work.  Necessity is similar except that the forces compelling the defendant to act are physical or natural, as opposed to the threats of another human being.

If you have questions regarding justification defenses, or any other criminal defense matters, please contact Ketcham Law for a consultation by calling us at (205) 296-4233.

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