Prosecutors take violent crimes very seriously and often seek the harshest penalties under the law. If you’ve been accused of one of these crimes, then you’re probably worried about how to defend yourself and what the process could mean for your future. These are legitimate concerns. After all, you probably have loved ones who count on you in one way or another, and being stripped away from them would be devastating.
But as frightening as it can be to face violent crime allegations, you can’t let the prosecution exploit your anxiety to their benefit. Prosecutors often do this by trying to force accused individuals into plea bargains that are unfair under the circumstances. Before you talk about resolving your case, though, you need to carefully consider your defense options, as you may have some legal avenues available to you that could lead to reduced or dismissed charges, or even acquittal if your case goes to trial.
Let’s look at some of your defense options:
- Self-defense: This is one of the most commonly utilized defenses when it comes to domestic assault and other violent crimes like murder. Under Massachusetts law, you can defend yourself with physical force if you reasonably believe that your physical safety is in immediate danger. However, in order to successfully invoke this defense, you have to demonstrate that you took reasonable action to try to avoid the physical confrontation. This is known as the duty to retreat. Remember, showing that you were in fear prior to defending yourself is not enough to claim self-defense. Instead, you’ll want to be able to point to some overt act that will convince a judge and jury that you were about to be attacked. This may include a raised fist or the brandishing of a weapon.
- Lack of intent: Generally speaking, in order to obtain a conviction, the prosecution must show that you intended to harm the other person. But proving intent can be difficult, especially in heated situations where people are reacting in a fraction of a second. Here, you’ll want to consider the circumstances of your case and gather evidence that is indicative of accidental harm. Evidence that could harm you here are statements that you made and any forethought prior to the incident.
- Mistake of fact: The two defenses mentioned above essentially admit that you engaged in the act in question, but that it was justified or less severe than the prosecution claims. But you might also be able to successfully argue that you weren’t involved in the event at all. Far too often witnesses make erroneous identifications of perpetrators, or the exact cause of the victim’s injuries is unclear. You’ll want to exploit these facts to your advantage. Remember, the prosecution has to prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt, so any holes that you can poke in their interpretation of the facts can go a long way.
Don’t neglect other defense tactics
While the defense strategies mentioned above are big-picture arguments, you’ll probably also have other criminal defense tactics at your disposal. Evidentiary issues arise all the time in these cases, which may allow you to exclude certain evidence from being used against you. Witness credibility may be key to your case, too. Therefore, it’s critically important that you know how to build the legal arguments that are necessary to protect your interests. Fortunately, skilled criminal defense attorneys stand ready to help you in this regard so that you can hopefully turn the page on this chapter of your life and get back to living your normal life with your loved ones.