DUI arrests don't always lead to convictions in court. Police officer mistakes, faulty breathalyzers and crime lab errors may get your charges reduced or dismissed. Visit our California DUI page to learn more.
People accused of felony offenses should consult with a criminal defense attorney for help. A felony defense lawyer will advise the defendant on the best legal defense to raise to contest any criminal charges filed. A successful defense could lead to a dismissal of thecharge or a reduction from a felony to a misdemeanor.
In most states, the five most common defenses to challenge felony charges include:
showing errors or inconsistencies in accusations, and/or
violations of constitutional rights.
Note that felonies are the most serious offenses that a prosecutor can charge in a criminal case. A felony carries a maximum sentence of more than one year in state prison (as opposed to county jail time), and a serious felony crime is punishable by life in prison, and in some jurisdictions, death.
An alibi defense presents evidence that one was somewhere else at the time the crime happened.
1. What is an alibi defense?
In criminal law, an “alibi” is a legal defense strategy whereby defendants present evidence that they could not have committed a crime because they were somewhere else when the crime occurred.1
The defense helps contest such felony criminal offenses as:
grand theft, and
sale of a controlled substance.
Evidence to support an alibi defense can take the form of:
video surveillance footage, and/or
documents such as credit card receipts, workplace timecards, or hotel reservations.
Note that in most jurisdictions, defendants (or their criminal defense lawyers) have to provide prosecutors with written notice that they intend to present an alibi defense. A failure to do so often precludes the accused from raising the defense.2
2. What is the legal defense of self-defense?
“Self-defense” can serve as an effective legal defense against many violent crimes, like:
aggravated battery, and
Most jurisdictions say that defendants legally act in self-defense when they:
reasonably believe that they are in imminent danger of suffering bodily injury,
reasonably believe that the immediate use of force is necessary to defend against that reasonable fear of imminent peril, and
use no more force than reasonably necessary to defend against that danger.3
The defense of self-defense basically asserts that an accused took some criminal act but was justified in taking it under the circumstances.
3. When does consent work as a defense?
“Consent” essentially means that a person, or in many criminal cases “the victim,” willfully agrees that a specific act takes place.4
Consent works as a legal defense in many felony cases because it shows that a criminal act was not done. There is no criminal act because another person agreed to it.
For example, Nevada law defines the crime of sexual assault and rape as engaging in penetrative sex with a person who does not consent.5 Therefore, if a person consents to sex, there is no criminal act because of the alleged “victim’s” willingness to engage in the act.
Many consent defenses boil down to a case of “he said, she said.” This means it is helpful if a defendant can present evidence that corroborates a person’s consent. Examples of such evidence include:
witness statements, and
A mistake of fact asserts that the defendant made a fundamental mistake that negates an element of the crime.
4. What are defenses involving errors or inconsistencies in accusations?
There are two common defenses to possible felony convictions that challenge the validity of a felony charge. These are:
mistake of fact, which asserts that the defendant made a fundamental mistake that negates an element of the crime, and
false accusations, which asserts that someone accused another of a crime that he/she did not commit.
The above defenses are common in cases involving:
5. Is it a legal defense to show that law enforcement personnel violated an accused’s constitutional rights?
Yes. Defendants can always contest felony charges by showing that police officers violated one of their constitutional rights.
For example, maybe the police:
arrested the defendant without probable cause,
coerced a confession,
arrested a party after an unlawful search and seizure, and/or
failed to read a suspect his/her Miranda rights.
As with the above defenses, a defendant can attempt to use a violation of his/her rights to get a felony charge reduced or even dropped altogether.
6. Should a defendant facing felony charges consult with an attorney?
Yes. Felony charges are serious charges alleged in any state’s criminal justice system. A conviction of a felony offense can lead to a lengthy prison sentence and significant fines.
Therefore, people facing a felony charge should consult with a criminal defense lawyer or law office/law firm for legal advice.
A criminal lawyer will inform accused parties of their legal options and the best possible legal defenses available in their case.
Note that most criminal defense attorneys provide free initial consultations. A free consultation means that an accused or his/her loved one can get legal questions answered for no charge.
Further, communications between a defense lawyer and his/her client are protected by the attorney-client relationship. Lawyers cannot disclose these communications without a client’s consent.
7. What is the law in California?
California’s criminal laws acknowledge all of the legal defenses set forth above.6
California felonies are the most severe offenses that prosecutors can file in the state. An effective legal defense can work to dismiss a charge or reduce one to a charge of a lesser crime.
A former Los Angeles prosecutor, attorney Neil Shouse graduated with honors from UC Berkeley and Harvard Law School (and completed additional graduate studies at MIT). He has been featured on CNN, Good Morning America, Dr Phil, The Today Show and Court TV. Mr Shouse has been recognized by the National Trial Lawyers as one of the Top 100 Criminal and Top 100 Civil Attorneys.