December 9, 2023
Being charged with a crime can be incredibly stressful. You don’t want to plead guilty, but how can you prove your innocence or lessen your sentence?
Luckily, there are many ways to defend against criminal charges. Some are well known, like self-defense, but did you know that hypoglycemia can be used as a defense in some cases? Do you know about the “make my day” law, and how can it help you in court?
Below we have a few examples of different defense strategies that have been used to lessen sentences or get cases dropped. Even if your case is a rather unique situation, looking at some of these defenses may give you and your attorney an idea of how you can defend yourself in court.
Justification. When you defend your actions using a justification defense, you will have to show the judge that based on the events leading up to the actions you committed, what would otherwise be seen as criminal can be justified in the eyes of the judge and the jury.
- Self-defense: If your actions were a response to an immediate threat, you could claim you were acting in self-defense.
- Defense of Others (Public Duty): Similar to self-defense, claiming you were acting in the defense of others means that you were acting in response to an immediate threat toward others.
- Defense of Habitation or Property: While Colorado does not have “stand your ground” legislation, the state does have the “make my day” law. If you shoot and kill an intruder in your home, you can receive immunity for your actions.
- Use of Lawful Force: This immunity is often granted to peace officers who are making an arrest or preventing an escape from arrest. But use of lawful force is also appropriate when you have confronted a trespasser who is threatening to commit a serious crime within your home.
- Necessity: This defense can be used for a variety of crimes and situations. For example, if you were speeding to drive a dying person or a woman in labor to the hospital, the judge may find that your speed was necessary. Economic necessity can also be used, but in limited circumstances. The judge will be able to use reason to decide whether or not you acted out of necessity to save someone or prevent harm to yourself or others.
Excuse. In some cases, your mental state may have affected your judgment and your actions. You and your attorney will argue that your actions caused harm to others, but you should not be punished for said actions because you lacked moral accountability at the time. Some examples of “excuses” include:
- Duress: Some crimes are committed because a person could not act under his or her free will and was under the control of another person. If you were threatened or forced to commit criminal actions, you could claim that you were “under duress.”
- Insanity/Diminished Capacity: Certain psychiatric or mental illnesses can lead people to commit dangerous or unlawful actions. If you were acting while in a manic or schizophrenic episode or believe your mental state compromised your judgment, you can plead insanity.
- Intoxication: The use of alcohol and drugs can impair your better judgment. While this defense is only effective in limited circumstances, intoxication could lessen your sentence. Interestingly, an intoxication defense does not have to involve drugs or alcohol. In 2005, the Colorado Supreme Court ruled that a diabetic man who was charged with second-degree murder and first-degree assault could plead intoxication due to insulin-induced hypoglycemia.
- Mistake of Fact: Many charges can be made after a simple misunderstanding or miscommunication. This is where a mistake of fact defense is useful. Mistake of fact simply means you did not understand or know something, and that caused you to unintentionally commit a crime. For example, if you took property or money that belonged to someone else, but honestly thought it was your own, you could plead mistake of fact.
- Mistake of Law: Laws and policies are constantly changing, and can take time to go into effect. If you were honestly not aware of a policy or law change, and this mistake led you to think it was ok to commit a certain crime, you could use a mistake of law defense. This defense can only be used in limited circumstances, since it is believed to be the responsibility of each citizen to understand local, state, and federal laws.
Extrinsic defenses. Sometimes, a case will be dropped due to actions committed by parties other than the defendant. You and your attorney should review how your arrest and trial has been handled and look for any discrepancies on the part of the peace officer or prosecution. One of the most common extrinsic defenses is using the statute of limitations to get your case dropped. If you committed a crime a number of years ago, it may fall out of the timeline the prosecution is given to charge you for your crime.
Each case is unique. Different defense strategies will work for some crimes and some situations, while some strategies are better suited for other offenses. That’s where a knowledgeable, experienced Colorado criminal lawyer can help. They’ve handled cases like yours before, and they will know what is most likely to benefit you. To figure out the best defense strategies for your case, contact an experienced criminal defense attorney today.
About the Author:
Denver-based criminal defense and DUI attorney Jacob E. Martinez is a knowledgeable and experienced litigator with a record of success providing innovative solutions to clients facing criminal charges of any severity. Mr. Martinez has been designated a Top 100 Trial Lawyer by the National Trial Lawyers and has been awarded both the Avvo Client’s Choice Award and Avvo Top Attorney designation, evidencing his reputation for his exemplary criminal and DUI defense work and high moral standards.