Types of Legal Defenses in Criminal Cases

Types of Legal Defenses in Criminal Cases

Being charged with a crime can have numerous repercussions that can forever change the course of your life. From having difficulty obtaining employment and housing to possible sex offender registration for sex crimes, having a criminal record can be debilitating. However, in some cases, there may be legal loopholes to a criminal case or you may not be guilty at all, which is where the expertise of a criminal defense lawyer comes into play. An experienced lawyer can help create a convincing claim on your behalf, protect your rights, and assist you in avoiding a false criminal charge. To do this, there are a number of legal defenses that a criminal defense lawyer may use that we will further explore in this article.


One of the most common and simple types of defenses in criminal cases is the innocence defense. The innocence defense relies upon you stating that you are innocent of the charges against you, you have not done anything wrong, and you have not revealed any incriminating information. This type of defense often doesn’t need the defendant to testify in order to prove their innocence because the prosecutor’s burden of proof will likely be insufficient. However, the defendant can testify and provide additional evidence if they so choose. It is important to remember that in the United States, you are innocent until proven guilty.


Self-defense is another type of legal defense that may be used in criminal cases. This type of defense is used to prove that the defendant was justified in their actions and therefore absolved of the crime. Self-defense can only be used as a valid defense if the defendant can prove that their actions were to protect themselves or others from harm. However, the harm inflicted must be within reason and imminent danger must be proven.


Another type of legal defense commonly used in criminal defense cases is the alibi defense. In this type of defense, the defendant will demonstrate to the defense that they could not have possibly committed the crime because they were not at the scene when the crime occurred. To validate this defense, evidence such as surveillance footage, location tracking, receipts, phone images, social media, or lay witness testimony may be used.  


Duress is another type of defense used in criminal law. This type of defense argues that you committed the crime only because you believed you were under threat or force of violence from another. For example, if an individual held a gun to your head and ordered you to commit a crime and stated that they would kill you if you didn’t do it, duress may be a viable defense. 

Statute of Limitations

A final legal defense that may be used is if the prosecutor has brought forth the charges after the statute of limitations has passed. The statute of limitations imposed is dependent on the state’s jurisdiction, as well as the type of crime. For example, there is typically no statute of limitations for murder.