What is an affirmative defense in criminal court?

On Behalf of | Jan 18, 2022 | Criminal Defense

When the state charges you with a crime, you have the right to defend yourself. Not only can you hire an attorney, but you have the right to discovery, which means reviewing the evidence the state will present against you.

Knowing what evidence exists can help you choose the right defense strategy. When all the state has is loose, circumstantial evidence, the best option might be for a dependent to completely deny involvement in the situation. Producing an alibi can be an effective way to create a reasonable doubt in certain cases.

Other times, there is little question that you were at the location of a criminal event or committed specific acts. When the state has compelling evidence connecting you to a crime, it may be time to consider an affirmative defense. 

What is an affirmative defense?

As you can perhaps decipher from the name, an affirmative defense involves acknowledging that you did something that the prosecutor sees as illegal. For example, in an assault case, you would affirm that you were involved in a physical altercation with the other party. However, you would seek to challenge how the prosecution explains the situation.

You will essentially try to show the courts that you had no intent to commit a crime. The prosecution needs to not only show that you were the one who broke the law, but that you did so on purpose in the case of violent offenses.

In the previously mentioned example of assault charges, self-defense would be an example of an affirmative defense. You could claim that you feared for your safety or the safety of another person present and took action to protect yourself or the other party. Given that Georgia allows people to commit acts of physical violence in defense of themselves or another, such a claim could weaken the allegations that you knowingly and intentionally broke the law.

Do affirmative defenses work?

When there is strong evidence connecting you to an event or the scene of the crime, sometimes challenging the evidence isn’t the best approach.

If you can reframe how the courts view what happened, you could convince a judge or jury that no crime occurred. Affirmative defenses are among some of the more popular strategies utilized by those facing serious criminal charges.

Learning more about different criminal defense options can help you prepare for your day in court.