Understanding Your Rights: A Guide to Criminal Defense Strategies

By Jonathan Blecher on June 22, 2023

Dealing with criminal charges can be incredibly stressful. Don’t lose sight of the fact that you still need to explore all your options to defend the charge against you and protect your rights.

Here are some frequently used criminal defense strategies: 

  1. Presumption of Innocence: The burden of proof is on the prosecution to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Any defense strategy begins with that mindset and continues during the progress of the case. Defense investigation and fact-gathering may support or negate some strategies.
  2. Lack of Evidence: Proof beyond a reasonable doubt is directly linked to the reliability, accuracy, or admissibility of the prosecutor’s evidence. Your attorney might challenge how the evidence was collected by law enforcement, the chain of custody, the experts’ qualifications, the spoilation of fungible evidence, and the availability of defense testing. Missing pieces of evidence or lack of independent testimony of witnesses also tie into proof beyond a reasonable doubt.
  3. Alibi Defense: An alibi is an affirmative defense where you argue that you couldn’t have committed the crime because you were somewhere else when it happened. Florida Rule of Criminal Procedure 3.220 requires that an alibi defense be disclosed to the State no later than ten days from the trial date or at any other time the court requires. Evidence of an alibi can include:
    1. Testimony from people who were with you at the time of the alleged crime confirming that you were somewhere else entirely. It could be friends, family, coworkers, or anyone else who can back up your story, even a bartender who remembers you. These witnesses should be interviewed very carefully by your defense team because a prosecutor will scrutinize their testimony.
    2. Documents can back up an alibi defense. This can include receipts, photos with time stamps, credit card statements, airplane tickets, train receipts, Uber records, and any other official papers that prove you were somewhere else when the crime went down.
    3. Experts and witnesses can support an alibi. You might need an expert witness to explain technical issues or provide scientific evidence that supports your alibi. For example, a forensic expert in ballistics or a cell phone analyst could provide valuable testimony and establish reasonable doubt.
Photo of a Lawyer Writing on an Envelope
  1. Self-Defense or Stand-Your-Ground: This can be used in cases where physical harm occurs. You must prove that you reasonably believed you were in immediate danger of bodily harm or death and that your actions were necessary to protect yourself or others.
  2. Duress or Coercion: There isn’t a specific defense titled “coercion” in Florida, as in some other states. However, the concept of coercion can still be relevant in certain cases. Even though there’s no specific coercion defense in Florida, your attorney can use the basic principles of duress to establish this defense. You’ll need to show that you faced an immediate threat of serious harm or death, reasonably feared for your safety, and had no reasonable way to escape the harm. This defense requires skillful jury selection.
  3. Mistaken Identity (or the “Some Other Guy Did It” defense): If there’s eyewitness testimony in your case, your attorney will want to challenge the accuracy of the identification. Your lawyer will question the conditions under which the witness made the identification, potential bias, or inconsistencies in their statements. Police line-ups or photo IDs have a long history of inaccuracies and are the basis for false convictions of innocent people.
  4. Mental Illness: Insanity may have played a role in the crime, the defendant may be incompetent to stand trial, or both. The insanity defense in Florida is codified in § 775.027.   The defense must establish, by clear and convincing evidence, that the defendant suffered from a mental disease or defect when the crime was committed. As a result, they did not know what they were doing or did not know it was wrong. In Florida, a defendant found not guilty by reason of insanity will be kept in custody for evaluation for a long time, perhaps permanently. The laws on this subject vary from state to state. 

Additionally, the defendant may be incompetent to stand trial, which is different from insanity at the time of the offense. If raised by the defense within the time periods established by the Rules of Criminal Procedure, the court will appoint experts to conduct evaluations and prepare reports outlining their findings. In considering the issue of competence to proceed, the expert will consider the defendant’s capacity to: 

  1. Appreciate the charges or allegations against the defendant 
  2. Appreciate the range and nature of possible penalties that may be imposed 
  3. Understand the adversary nature of the legal process 
  4. Disclose to counsel facts pertinent to the proceedings at issue 
  5. Manifest appropriate courtroom behavior 
  6. Testify relevantly
  1. Suppression of Evidence: If evidence was obtained illegally or in violation of your constitutional rights under the Fourth and Fifth Amendments, your defense attorney can request that the evidence be suppressed. Usually, the evidence sought to be suppressed is either tangible (obtained during an unlawful search or arrest) or testimonial (statements obtained because of unlawful police conduct).
  2. Entrapment: The entrapment defense argues that law enforcement induced or coerced you into committing a crime you wouldn’t have otherwise done. You must demonstrate that the government’s conduct went beyond just providing an opportunity but also encouraged or persuaded you to engage in criminal defense in Coral Gables behavior. This defense requires that the crime was committed. This can be a risky defense, but effective jury selection can make the difference.

Plea Negotiation: While defending the charges is always preferable, in many cases, it’s best to consider a plea deal. This involves working with the prosecution to reach an agreement on reduced charges or a lighter sentence. You should enter plea negotiations only after you have completed your investigation and exhausted all possible defense options.  An experienced attorney can assess the strength of the prosecution’s case and negotiate on your behalf.

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