It has become standard practice for prosecutors to charge people with the most serious possible offenses they can given the circumstances. Many people feel like they have no choice but to plead guilty when the state accuses them of an offense and seems to have convincing evidence.
They may worry that a conviction would result in far worse criminal penalties, making a guilty plea seem like the less-harm solution for their current circumstances. However, even if the state has strong evidence of criminal activity, that doesn’t necessarily mean you broke the law. An affirmative defense could potentially help protect your freedom and prevent you from winding up with a criminal record.
What is an affirmative defense?
Standard defense strategies tried to prove that someone simply did not do what the prosecutor claims they did. Providing an alibi, undermining evidence or challenging the validity of a search can all help those charged with a crime beat those charges.
However, sometimes, there is very clear evidence that someone did exactly what the state claims they did. In that situation, an affirmative defense can be a better solution. It involves a defendant claiming that they did what the state alleges but that the circumstances mean that their actions were not a crime.
What are common affirmative defense strategies?
Self-defense is probably among the most common and well-known affirmative defenses. If you can show that you acted to defend yourself or another person, even the use of deadly force might be legal under North Carolina law. This is a subcategory of the necessity affirmative defense, in which a defendant shows the courts they believed they could only act in one way.
Claiming lack of mental capacity or temporary insanity can also be an affirmative defense. Even non-consensual intoxication could help someone fight back against pending criminal charges. Employees following company orders can sometimes claim respondeat superior protections that make the employer, not the worker, responsible. Entrapment, meaning improper behavior by law enforcement agents or government officials, can also give rise to an affirmative defense.
No one solution is the ideal response for every criminal situation. So, those facing serious criminal charges may want to consider an affirmative defense along with their other defense options before settling on a strategy.