What Is Affirmative Defense Against Criminal Charges?

If you are facing criminal charges, you may pursue an affirmative defense as your legal strategy. An affirmative defense means that the defendant was under extenuating circumstances when they committed the crime they are accused of. This course of action aims at justifying or excusing what they did due to specific circumstances. Defendants often choose an affirmative defense when they have or are willing to concede that the prosecution can prove the charges.

Affirmative defense differs from other criminal defense solutions because the defendant has to prove their claim and provide acceptable proof of it. Other criminal defense strategies usually challenge the prosecution’s claim to obtain a dismissal or reduction of charges.

Working with a reputable criminal defense attorney is always vital if you face criminal charges. However, it can be especially important if you opt for an affirmative defense because you need to let the court know about your choice early on and it also places the burden of evidence on you.

Common Types of Affirmative Defense

When using an affirmative defense, you may plead that you committed a crime due to any of the following factors:

  • Duress
  • Necessity
  • Entrapment
  • Intoxication
  • Insanity

You can also argue that you acted the way you did because of law enforcement or government misconduct, including:

  • False arrest
  • Illegal search and seizure
  • Impairment of Grand Jury process

When choosing a ground for your affirmative defense, you must ensure that it is one recognized under criminal law. You must then show acceptable evidence to the court to support your claim.

Is Self Defense an Affirmative Defense in Massachusetts?

In Massachusetts, self-defense is an acceptable and common affirmative defense option in the state’s courtrooms. The law allows individuals to defend themselves with “reasonable” physical force. The criminal defendant must establish that they had a credible reason to act the way they did because the other person attacked or was about to attack them.

How to Prove Affirmative Defense?

An important part of the affirmative defense process is the legal requirement of informing the court that you are going to use this strategy. You can do so at the time of arraignment at the earliest or the preliminary hearing at the latest.

If you do not officially let the judge know, you are effectively waiving your right to use this course of action during your trial.

When you bring evidence to the court, you and your lawyer must make sure that it meets a specific standard set by state laws. Most states require that a defendant shows proof that meets the standard of preponderance of the evidence.

Working with an experienced criminal defense attorney helps ensure that you follow the mandatory steps for an affirmative defense and that the proof you use to support your claim meet adequate standards.

Brad Bailey Law works with you to find an effective defense strategy to obtain a dismissal of your criminal charges in Boston. Contact us today at (617) 500-0252 to schedule an appointment.


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