Defense Strategies in Criminal Cases
Defense strategies are never the same from one case to the next, though they may be similar, because they are always changing and shifting based on the details of the case itself. A lot of this has to do with the way that the prosecution approaches the situation; the defense has to counter what the prosecution is doing, so changes to the strategy may need to be made as questions are posed to the defendant, as evidence is presented, and as the strategy that the prosecution is going to use becomes clear.
Of course, a criminal defense strategy will be laid out before the case goes to court, but that does not mean it will never change. For example, the defense lawyer may decide that it is best to show why the defendant was not at the scene of the crime, giving him or her an alibi, and thereby showing that it was impossible for the defendant to commit the crime. In the courtroom, though, the prosecution may produce a witness or hard evidence —- like video footage -— that shows that the defendant was indeed at the scene. When this happens, the defense has to move to showing why the defendant, even if he or she was present, was not the guilty party.
The Role of the Truth
People sometimes have the idea that a defense lawyer is simply going to lie about what the defendant did or did not do, but the fact is that this is not usually the case. Simply telling the truth plays a much bigger role in the case. In many situations, this is simply because the defendant is innocent, and the lawyer just has to demonstrate that to the court.
The thing about telling the truth is that two true accounts can reach a jury in a very different fashion, depending on what facts are used. The prosecution may be able to show that a robbery suspect was indeed in the store at the time of the robbery, but they may leave out the fact that the theft occurred on the second floor, and the video footage puts the defendant on the escalator or on the first floor. Getting the whole truth of the situation will often lead to dropped charges as the full reality becomes clear.
The Defendant's Mindset
Some criminal defense strategies involve showing what the defendant was thinking or feeling, demonstrating his or her true mindset. This can show why the defendant did not want to be involved in a crime, even if there is some evidence linking him or her to the event.
For example, a man may be asked to drive a car to the bank with two of his friends inside, not realizing that they are planning a robbery. When the man sees what is happening, he may try to leave the bank and get in touch with the authorities. While the raw facts do show that he was involved by driving a pair of bank robbers to the scene of the crime, his mindset shows that he wanted nothing to do with the crime and that he tried to prevent it. This can alter the way that the facts themselves are perceived.
Questioning the Procedures
Finally, a good defense strategy may involve showing why the procedures used by the authorities were illegal or unjust. This can sometimes get evidence thrown out, even if it would clearly have led to a conviction.
For instance, in order to do a search of a home, the police need to prove that there was probable cause to carry out the search, and then they have to get a warrant. If they search a home and find illegal drugs and drug paraphernalia with the defendant’s fingerprints on them, the case looks like an open-and-shut ordeal. However, the defense lawyer may be able to show that they never had probable cause, demonstrating that the search was illegal, and the evidence collected will then be thrown out.
These laws are in place to protect people, keeping the authorities from simply searching homes and businesses at will, looking for crimes. Instead, authorities are meant to focus on those who are clearly and actively committing crimes, and they must respect the privacy of the population.
The information on this page is meant to provide a general overview of the law. The laws in your state and/or city may deviate significantly from those described here. If you have specific questions related to your situation you should speak with a local attorney.
Additional Criminal Defense Articles
- Criminal Law
- What To Do If You're Arrested
- Miranda Rights: The Who, What, Where, When and Why
- Initial Consultation With a Criminal Defense Attorney or a Public Defender
- Infraction, Misdemeanor or Felony: What is the Difference?
- Murder vs. Manslaughter
- Avoiding a Criminal Record
- Can Police Search a Car Without a Warrant?
- Expunging Criminal Records
- What to do if Police Use Excessive Force
- Sentencing Guidelines: Fair Sentences or a Denial of Trial by Jury?
- Not Guilty by Reason of Insanity
- Police Misconduct Leading to Wrongful Convictions
- How the False Testimony of Snitches Results in Wrongful Convictions
- Witness Misidentification
- Prosecutorial Misconduct Leading to Wrongful Convictions
- How Bad Lawyering Can Result in Wrongful Convictions
- Violating Probation
- What Happens When You Face Out of State Criminal Charges?
- Double Jeopardy
- What Is The National Sex Offender Registry?
- The Truth About Perjury
- Bail For Beginners
- When Does Discipline Become Abuse?
- Are Lie Detector Tests Admissible?
- Probable Cause to Arrest Someone
- Resisting Arrest
- The Fruit of the Poisonous Tree Doctrine
- What Is a Defense Attorney?
- Criminal Law Basics
- Your Fifth Amendment Right Against Self-Incrimination
- Search and Seizure Laws by State
- Criminal Statutes of Limitations: Time Limits for State Charges
- When Must The Police Read Me My Miranda Rights?
- What is a Plea Bargain?
- What is expungement?
- What is Assault?
- What are my rights when charged with a crime?
- What Is Bail?
- Does an Expunged Criminal Record Still Follow You?
- If I Am Arrested, Should I Hire An Attorney?
State Criminal Defense Articles
- New Jersey
- New York
- North Carolina
- North Dakota