Being charged with a violent crime doesn’t necessarily have to result in severe penalties. With cases like these, proving that you didn’t commit the violent act in question isn’t your sole recourse. In some instances, the use of extreme and even lethal force may be legally justified or excusable. When defending these cases, there are four claims that an attorney might make.
1. Your constitutional rights were impinged upon or otherwise violated
Using the violation of your constitutional rights generally takes the focus off of the prosecution’s claims and places it on the handling of your case. Even though you are charged with a crime, you are still legally entitled to a specific manner of treatment and certain protections under the U.S. Constitution. This may be a valid defense for your case if:
- The arresting officers did not read you the Miranda warning
- Evidence pertaining to your case was tampered with
- Evidence was collected by illegal search and seizure
- A warrant wasn’t obtained
Being able to definitively prove that your case was mishandled in these or other ways could result in the charges against you being thrown out.
2. You were temporarily insane
Using a temporary insanity defense is an admission of guilt. Rather than attempting to undermine the prosecution’s argument, you and your legal team will assume the burden of proving that you weren’t of sound mind during the act. This ultimately means proving that you were unable to resist the urge to act at the time of the crime due to short-term mental illness, short-term lack of impulse control, or other temporary physiological or psychological factors affecting your decision-making abilities. The temporary insanity defense does not justify a crime. Instead, it seeks to excuse it.
3. You acted to protect yourself or someone else
Whether facing assault, battery or murder charges, self-defense may be a valid claim. This is often the case in which a person has committed a violent act against someone who has physically harmed them or another person before. To successfully prove these claims, defendants must show that they were in imminent danger and that the circumstances and the actions of the aggressor justified their response.
4. You did not cause the level of harm for which you’re being charged
Surprisingly, sometimes a defense of innocence doesn’t mean that you didn’t physically attack someone, whether with malicious intent or in self-defense. Instead, it may simply mean that although you used physical force, it didn’t cause the bodily injuries or death of the other party. For instance, if you delivered a seemingly deadly blow to the victim, it may be found that this individual suffered a medical event that wasn’t triggered by the altercation or your actions. This might be the case if the other party was:
- Under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time of the altercation
- Living with a chronic, progressive, or potentially fatal illness
- In poor general health
Defenses such as these often require the use of expert medical witnesses and they may rely heavily on forensic evidence including the victim’s autopsy report. The overarching goal of this defense is to prove that although a violent act was committed, it was not done with the intention of causing death or permanent injury, and that the physical consequences of the act were affected by existing health conditions or other factors. With this defense, many defendants are able to obtain far more lenient penalties, and some have faced no significant penalties at all. It’s important to note, however, that the weight of this defense may not hold in instances in which the stress caused by an attack is determined to have triggered the deadly health event in question.
Although being charged with a violent crime can seem hopeless, the use of force is sometimes justifiable or excusable. Determining whether your case falls into either of these categories is an important step towards protecting your freedom and regaining your peace of mind.