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California Defenses to Criminal Prosecution

There are many defenses to criminal charges in California. The different defenses are divided into three basic categories (All seventeen California Defenses are listed at the bottom of this article with a link to each defense for more information).

The first category of criminal defenses contains the negative defenses, a negative defense means that the defendant is taking the position that there is insufficient evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the criminal charges is true. Negative defenses are probably the most common type of defense. Negative defenses include alibi defense and insufficiency of the evidence (which can be considered one-in-the-same in most instances). Closely related defenses to negative defenses includes police officer misconduct in the past, (Pitchess Motions, which might demonstrate prior police officer misconduct) and exclusion of evidence on prejudicial grounds (Striking a prior Strike so that the evidence of a past crime can not be used as part of a criminal case or as part of a criminal sentence for a new criminal conviction). 

The second category of criminal defenses contains the affirmative defenses. An affirmative defense is an admission by the defendant that he or she committed the act that lead to criminal charges but that the defendant should never-the-less be considered not guilty of the criminal charge because of a legal justification. For example, the defendant may admit to killing another person (the admission) and thereafter claim that he or she killed the other person in self defense (the affirmative defense). The most common affirmative defenses include self defense, insanity defense, entrapment defense, claim of right, defense of others, duress, and defense of intoxication

The third category of defenses to crime include the technical defenses (or procedural defenses). This category of criminal defenses includes all the technical reasons why a case can not proceed or can only proceed with limited evidence. For example, the statute of limitations is a procedural defense whereby the district attorney must bring a criminal action within the applicable time period or the district attorney may not bring the criminal charges at all. Other examples include excluding coerced confessions or evidence obtained without a warrant. The most common technical or procedural defenses include suppression of evidence, lack of jurisdiction, statute of limitationsDue Process violations, Double Jeopardy, "Striking a Strike," 

For procedural or technical defenses there are many subcategories: Bringing the arresting officer's history of wrongful arrests to the attention of the jury is a procedural defense that falls under the general heading of "Procedural or Technical Defense," but so does "Striking a prior Strike," which is defense whereby the jury is not allowed to hear evidence of a defendant's prior serious or violent crime. 

As stated, there is a list of California defenses at the end of this article with links to more information about any specific defense; however, there are a few defenses that do not need lengthy discussion and therefore we have not included a link with more information to these defenses. These defenses include 1) lack of jurisdiction (a procedural defense), which simply means that the court where the criminal matter is heard must be in the same county where any part of the criminal offense took place, and 2) jury nullification, which means that the jury, or juror, may believe that the defendant is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt but decide to vote not guilty because the jury, or juror, has moral issues with the conviction or because the jury, or juror, does not believe the criminal charge should even be a crime. For example, prostitution and simple possession of drug charges are seen as a waste of time and not necessarily a crime by some jurors and therefore those jurors might vote not guilty for the defendant after a jury trial even though the juror may actually believe that technically the district has proven that the defendant is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

Also, remember that it is not uncommon for a defendant to rely on several different defenses at once (though not generally advisable in front of a jury and at trial).

For example, a defendant may argue before trial that the police did not have probable cause to arrest him and therefore the evidence obtained as a result of his arrest should be thrown out of court during a suppression of evidence hearing (technical defense). If the defendant loses his suppression hearing he may then argue that the evidence is never-the-less insufficient to prove his guilt beyond a reasonable doubt (negative defense). At the same time, the defendant may argue that even if he did commit the crime he was entrapped into committed the crime (affirmative defense).

Finally, some defenses, such as procedural defenses might fall into several categories. For example, if a defendant has a prior crime that is excluded from evidence due to its extreme prejudice without any probative value, the prior crime may never be brought to the jury's attention. Thereafter, the defendant may be found not guilty due to insufficiency of the evidence in large part because of the exclusion of the defendant's prior criminal conduct (both a procedural and negative defense).

The following list comprises negative, affirmative, technical, & procedural defenses that apply to California criminal charges. For more information about any one of the defenses please click the name of the defense or contact the law offices of criminal defense attorney Christopher Dorado for a free consultation concerning your California criminal charges.. 909.913.3138

Insufficient Evidence

Insanity Defense

Defense of Necessity

Ex Post Facto Laws

Jury Nullification

Police Misconduct

Alibi Defense

Mistake of Fact Defense

Double Jeopardy

Coerced Confessions

Self Defense

Intoxication Defense

Statute of Limitations

Due Process Violations

Claim of Right

Defense of Others

Entrapment Defense

Procedural Defenses

Lack of Jurisdiction




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