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Criminal Defenses

In order to convict a criminal defendant, the prosecutor must prove him or her guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. The defendant is, thus, given an opportunity to present a defense.¹ There are two types of defenses with multiple sub-defenses beneath them. The two main arguments include:

"The defendant didn't do it"¹

  • The presumption of innocence: all people accused of a crime are legally innocent until proven guilty.
  • Reasonable doubt: the prosecutor must convince a judge or jury of a defendants guilt "beyond a reasonable doubt."
  • The Alibi Defense: an alibi defense consists of evidence that a defendant was somewhere other than the scene of the crime at the time it was committed.

"The defendant did it, but..."¹

  • Self-Defense: commonly asserted by someone charged with a crime of violence, such as battery, assault with a deadly weapon, or murder.
  • The Insanity Defense: this defense is based on the principle that punishment is justified only if the defendant is capable of controlling his or her behavior and understanding that what he or she has done is wrong.
  • Under the influence: generally, voluntary intoxication does not excuse criminal activity, however some criminals will use it as a defense by arguing that their mental functioning was so impaired that they cannot be held accountable for their actions.
  • Entrapment: occurs when the government induces a person to commit a crime and then tries to punish the person for committing it.




1. NOLO. Defenses to Criminal Charges. Retrieved May 12, 2014, from