In order to convict a person of a crime, typically, a prosecutor must prove two things:
First, that a crime was committed, and second that you, the defendant, were the perpetrator.
These two components play into how you and your Tampa defense attorney will develop your legal strategy. Legal defenses typically fall into two broad categories: Lack of evidence and justification/excuse.
Here are a few different legal defenses that a skilled Tampa defense lawyer may use.
Lack of Evidence Legal Defenses
In the United States, the burden is on the prosecution to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant committed a crime. One simple legal defense is simply to say, “I didn’t do it,” and force the prosecution to provide sufficient evidence that a crime was committed and that the defendant was responsible. To be thorough, however, it can be useful for the defense to provide evidence of its own. For example, providing an alibi shows that you were elsewhere when a crime was committed. Another tactic is to illustrate the evidence the prosecution has presented is either insufficient, somehow tainted, or unrelated.
Justification Legal Defenses
When using justification as a legal defense, you are basically saying, “yes, I committed the act, but I can’t or shouldn’t be held responsible.” The following are common reasons why someone would use a justification defense. It’s important to note that such a defense is best handled by a skilled criminal defense attorney who can adequately present a narrative based on legal know-how and not just an explanatory story.
In the state of Florida, it is lawful to use force, including deadly force, to defend yourself, another person, or property. According to the state’s “Stand Your Ground” law, an individual does not have a “duty to retreat” if they feel there is an imminent threat of death or severe bodily injury. Self-defense can sometimes be a difficult legal defense to prove, however, as you must show that it was necessary and that your reaction was in proportion to the threat. If you provide the minimum amount of evidence for self-defense, the jury will be given a self-defense instruction. Most of the time, Stand Your Ground cases don’t reach the courtroom. Those that do must show that the officers who did not accept the stand your ground defense made a mistake.
The insanity defense claims that a defendant did not have the mental capacity to understand right from wrong and therefore should not be convicted of a crime. Juries are often reluctant to accept this type of defense, especially if it is a serious or violent crime. You will need to provide specific and specialized evidence for this type of defense. It will probably not be enough to simply say that you were very angry or upset when you committed a crime. Individuals who are found not guilty by reason of insanity typically do not go to prison, but they often do have to spend time in a mental health facility.
Simply put, entrapment occurs when a law enforcement official or a confidential informant induces an individual to commit a crime when that person otherwise would not have done it. Entrapment related offenses often include drug sales, cyber crimes, and prostitution solicitation. Under Florida law, there are two types of entrapment defenses: subjective and objective. In subjective entrapment, the defendant must show that law enforcement induced them to commit an act outside of their normal behavior. In objective entrapment, law enforcement is accused of engaging in egregious behavior.
Mistake of Fact/Law
Mistake of fact means that the defendant did not understand the circumstances surrounding a crime. For example, a person accused of stealing may have believed that they had permission to take an object. Mistake of law means that the defendant believes the law to be different than it actually is. This may be the case for an individual who has recently moved from a different state or municipality. It is important to remember, however, that the burden is on an individual to be aware of the laws in their area.
Generally, Florida does not allow for intoxication as a legal defense with a few exceptions. The first exception is the intoxication from a lawful prescription medication if it was taken as directed by a physician. The other exception is the involuntary intoxication defense. This means that an individual committed a crime while unknowingly under the influence of alcohol or other mind-altering substances. Involuntary intoxication also includes ingesting substances due to force or coercion.
The defense of duress is used when a defendant asserts that they had no choice but to engage in criminal activity because of a threat of harm. For example, a person may be told that their child will be killed unless they commit a crime. It’s important to remember that duress can only be used as a defense if you can show that you had no way of escaping from the situation.
Procedural Legal Defenses
An additional group of legal defenses centers around the rules applied to prosecutors and law enforcement officials. These are known as procedural legal defenses. A skilled defense lawyer will use these when appropriate.
The Sixth Amendment of the United States Constitution and the state constitution of Florida both state that accused individuals have the right to a speedy trial. Under state law, the accused must be brought to trial within 90 days of an arrest for a misdemeanor and 175 days for a felony. If a trial does not commence by the deadline, the charges are not automatically dismissed, but the defendant can file a “Notice of Expiration of Speedy Trial Time.” If the trial does not begin within 15 days of the notice, there is a possibility that the case could be dismissed. Note that when the defense requests delays, the speedy trial defense is waived.
Search and Seizure
The Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution guarantees the right of individuals against unreasonable searches and seizures. Law enforcement can only search you if they have a warrant or reasonable suspicion. If police conduct an illegal search, the evidence obtained during the search may be declared inadmissible in a trial. It’s also possible that the case may be dismissed altogether, but that will depend on other circumstances and evidence—and on your lawyer.
Statute of Limitations
The statute of limitations sets a time period from the commission of a crime to when charges must be filed. These timelines were imposed because the age of a crime can negatively impact investigators ability to find reliable evidence or witnesses. The exact time period depends on the severity of the crime. In addition, in Florida, there is no statute of limitations for capital crimes. Individuals who are arrested because of old accusations should consult with their attorneys about the statute of limitations for the particular crime.
Ultimately, the best way to determine which legal defense will be most effective for your case is to consult with a knowledgeable Tampa defense attorney. At Mike G Law, my experience as a prosecutor helps me better serve my clients. I can help you secure the best possible outcome for your situation, whether that’s a trial or at the negotiating table. Schedule a consultation today to get started!