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Affirmative Defenses: Do You Dare To Confess While Maintaining Your Innocence?


In civics class, your teachers make it sound like the answer to any question about whether you did what the police are accusing you of doing is a simple “yes” or “no.”  You begin your adult life thinking that, if the answer is, “yes, I did it,” then your criminal defense lawyer helps you negotiate a plea deal, but if the answer is, “no, I didn’t do it,” you start preparing for trial and gathering evidence of your innocence.  In practice, things are not quite that simple.  “I didn’t do it” is not the only possible defense to criminal charges.  You can also claim that you committed the act, but you did so under circumstances where the criminal charge does not apply.  Defenses where you say, “I did it, but I’m not guilty” are called affirmative defenses.  A West Palm Beach criminal defense lawyer can help you decide whether affirmative defenses should be part of your defense strategy.

How Do Affirmative Defenses Work?

When defendants use affirmative defenses, they admit that the prosecution’s allegations are partially true.  In other words, they say, “Yes, I took the money, but it wasn’t theft,” or, “Yes, I hit him, but it wasn’t assault.”  To use an affirmative defense, you must cite a circumstance that makes your actions not meet the definition of the criminal offense for which you are facing charges.  These are some common examples:

  • The other person gave you consent to do what you did. In financial crime cases, this means that the account holder authorized you to make the transactions that led to your arrest.  In sex crime cases, this means that the sexual activity occurred, but it was consensual.
  • You were acting in self-defense. You can use this defense in violent crime cases if you committed an act of violence only because of an immediate and credible threat or death or serious injury.
  • You acted under duress, which means that someone forced you to commit the crime under threat of violence or legal action against you. If the person who coerced you to commit the crime was a police officer, this is entrapment, and you can use the entrapment defense.
  • You acted without criminal intent, because you did not understand what you were doing. The insanity defense is one way of claiming lack of criminal intent, but it rarely works, in practice.  You can only use intoxication as a defense if you can prove that you were involuntarily intoxicated, such as if someone spiked your drink or forcibly injected you with an intoxicating drug.

When using an affirmative defense, you just show clear evidence of duress, consent, or any other mitigating circumstance that you are claiming.  Otherwise, your affirmative defense will come across sounding like a simple confession.

Contact a West Palm Beach Criminal Defense Lawyer Today

Attorney William Wallshein has more than 39 years of experience, including five years as a prosecutor in Palm Beach County.  Contact William Wallshein P.A. in West Palm Beach, Florida to discuss your case.



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