Types of Defenses to Crimes

by Oct 14, 2015criminal law0 comments

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Types of Defenses to Crimes?

Mistake of Fact

Any criminal defense lawyer will tell you that there are many defenses to any crime, but not knowing the law is not one of them. Laws and statutes are required to be written in a way that makes them easy to understand. Below is a list of criminal defenses and a brief explanation of each.


The abandonment defense says that the accused did plan the crime, but at some point chose to stop. For this defense, the accused must have removed himself from the plan, and stopped helping and encouraging any others who were involved.

Example: Sarah and her friends decide to break into the home of a neighbor they know is away for the weekend. They plan it out, but as they are about to jump out of the car to begin the break-in, Sarah backs out. She tells her friends that what they are doing is wrong and that she will have no part in it.


An alibi is a defense that names witnesses who can account for where the defendant was at the time the crime happened. This makes it easy to prove that the defendant did not commit the crime.

Example: Josh is accused of murdering his girlfriend, but at the time of her murder he was clocked in at work. There are coworkers and customers who confirm this.


Self-defense explains the use of deadly force. The defendant is justified in having used deadly force, and had no duty to retreat, if he had reason to believe he was protecting himself or someone else from bodily harm. Self-defense is also a valid defense for protection of one’s home, motor vehicle, or personal property; the property of an immediate family member; or property within one’s care.

Example: Lauren’s dad is an alcoholic who regularly hits her and her younger brother, Sam. One night, Lauren’s dad begins shouting at Sam and points a gun at him. Afraid that her dad is going to shoot Sam, Lauren finds one of her dad’s guns and ends up shooting her dad to protect her little brother.
Have you been accused of a crime? Was it self-defense? Contact Alex Mendoza, an aggressive criminal defense attorney, to fight for your rights.

Self-Defense Against a Public Servant

This defense is similar to the above, except that it is not relevant when the defendant is escaping from a crime, has provoked the public servant through physical combat, or knows that the public servant is doing his duty. The defendant must believe the public servant to be acting unlawfully and/or forcefully.

Example: Tyler and his girlfriend are driving home from a movie and are stopped by a police officer. The officer says that Tyler ran a red light, but Tyler knows he did not. Tyler states that he did not run the red light, but the officer forces him out of the car and onto the ground. Tyler’s girlfriend begins crying in the car, and the officer yells at her to be quiet. She continues crying, and the officer hits her. She screams at him, and he continues to hit her. Fearing for his girlfriend’s life, Tyler grabs the officer’s gun and shoots him.

Compulsion or Duress

This defense is another justification defense, and it claims that a crime was committed under force or threat of force. This defense assumes that a person of reasonable firmness would not be able to hold up under such force. This defense allows intent to play a role while still voiding guilt.

Example: Loraine’s daughter Angela went missing a week ago. Yesterday Loraine received an anonymous call from the kidnapper, stating that she must pay him $1 million or her daughter would be dead by the morning. The kidnapper also states that if she calls the police, her daughter will die. Loraine robs a bank that night in order to pay the kidnapper to get her daughter back.


With the necessity defense, the defendant claims to have chosen the lesser of two evils. This defense claims that an illegal act was committed only in order to stop an even greater evil. The conditions of this defense are: (1) the crime must stop the so-called greater evil, (2) there must be no alternative, (3) the harm caused by the crime committed must not be greater than or even equal to the harm avoided, (4) the necessity of the crime must be objectively reasonable in stopping the greater harm, and (5) the defendant must not have contributed to the problem.

Example: Jeff lives in a town that is on the edge of a large forest. One day, a fire starts in the woods and spreads quickly. Jeff thinks that if he burns the row of houses directly on the edge of the forest he will create a firewall that will then protect the rest of the town. Jeff is committing a crime (arson) in order to prevent a greater evil from happening.


Entrapment claims that a police officer talked the defendant into committing a crime that he was not going to before. For this defense to be plausible, the intent must not come from the defendant; the officer must coerce him into something he would not normally do. (So, for example, it is not entrapment if an officer offers drugs to a user and the user buys them.)

Example: A police officer is posing as a high school student. He befriends Cindy, a straight-A student who is involved in drama and student council and has never had a sip of alcohol. One night, the officer convinces Cindy to buy and smoke marijuana for the first time. After Cindy buys the marijuana from the officer, he immediately arrests her.
Were you a victim of entrapment? Call criminal defense attorney Alex Mendoza to discuss your case today!

Mental Incapacity or Insanity

The State of Indiana does not recognize diminished capacity or voluntary intoxication as a defense. However, it does recognize insanity (as well as temporary insanity) as a criminal defense. Insanity is an abnormal mental state that impairs mental capacity and decision-making, meaning that there can be no intent—and thus no crime. For this to be a valid criminal defense, though, the insane person must be unable to grasp the wrongfulness of the crime.

Example: Jerry is a normal guy with a two-year-old daughter. His wife is out of town for the week, so he is taking care of his daughter. One morning, Jerry wakes up in a dissociative fugue. He gets on a train, unable to remember who he is or anything about his life at all. Jerry’s daughter is left alone for over a week and nearly dies, and Jerry is on trial for her neglect. Jerry still cannot remember who he is, nor can he remember anything about his life.