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When a person is charged with committing a crime, there are a number of defense strategies that can be employed to help them be acquitted. Most commonly, a defense strategy will involve undermining the prosecution’s case. After all, as all defendants are innocent until proven guilty, the burden rests with the prosecution to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. By undermining the prosecution’s case, doubt is cast on it and it can be a barrier to having the jury convinced of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, the highest legal burden to meet in the U.S. justice system.

Sometimes instead of, or in addition to working towards weakening the prosecution’s case, the defense will assert what is known as an “affirmative defense.” An affirmative defense involves an active assertion of a defense that says “Yes, the defendant may have committed the alleged act, but they should not be held legally culpable because of other relevant circumstances that are present in this particular case. Let’s take a closer look at what an affirmative defense is.

Affirmative Defenses

Hypothetically, a defendant need not offer any evidence during the trial and hope that the prosecutor will not be able to meet their burden of proof. If a defendant plans to assert an affirmative defense, however, this will not be the case. The defendant must provide supporting evidence of an affirmative defense. An affirmative defense will often be presented in cases where it is fairly clear that the prosecution has enough evidence to show that the defendant engaged in certain criminal behavior. The affirmative defense comes back at this by saying, even if they did in engage in said behavior, it should not be considered criminal. The defendant, however, carriers the burden of proving the reason why it should not be considered criminal.

Explaining an affirmative defense can be complicated. It is often helpful to gain a sense of what an affirmative defense involves by providing examples of such defenses. Some of the most commonly known or asserted affirmative defenses include:

  • Self-defense
  • Insanity
  • Entrapment
  • Duress
  • Mistake of fact
  • Necessity
  • Expiration of the statute of limitations

Let’s take, for example, entrapment. The affirmative defense of entrapment means that the defendant is saying that they did commit the crime, but only because they were induced to commit the crime by an undercover law enforcement officer or other government agent. The defendant is, essentially, asserting that they would not have engaged in such criminal behavior should they not have been induced by the government agent. So, you see how an affirmative defense operates. It is a “yes, but…” situation. Yes, the defendant’s actions were in violation of a criminal law, but they should not be held legally responsible because there were other negating factors at play.

Criminal Defense Attorneys

For criminal defense counsel you can trust, talk to the attorneys at Navarrete & Schwartz. We are proud to serve the residence of Midland, Texas. Contact us today.