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Criminal Law: Types of Criminal Defenses

Experienced in All Types of Criminal Defenses

There are many defenses to Criminal Charges. Some of the most common include:

Self defense or defense of others

Often, a person charged with assault is involved in a fight or was defending his home or property against another individual. A person has the right to use reasonable force to protect himself or someone else. For example, if another person assaults you, you can fight back.

Reasonable force is what a reasonable person would use to defend against that type of attack. For example, if a person pushes you, reasonable force would include pushing and possibly hitting him/her. It would not be okay to stab the person who hits you and has no weapon. You have the right to protect your home from a trespasser. You may not shoot him except in limited circumstances. But you have the right to threaten to shoot him to scare him into leaving your home.

A person can not use force to resist an arrest. If a police officer tells a person that they are under arrest, even if the police have the wrong person, or are acting without a proper basis, the individual must submit to arrest. Failing to submit subjects that person to being charged and convicted of resisting arrest. A person may resist if the police use unlawful force against him. For example, if the police started beating the person under arrest, that person would have the right to resist. If a person asserts the defense of self-defense or defense of others, they submit evidence of that justified use of force (a prima facie case). Then the state must prove to a jury beyond a reasonable doubt that the defense was not justified.


This defense means that the defendant could not have committed the crime because he/she was somewhere else. The criminal defense attorney must submit to the state a notice of the alibi and an affidavit of the defendant asserting the alibi. There are dangers in presenting this type of defense. An experienced attorney will be very careful and investigate this defense. An experienced attorney will interview the people involved, frequently with an investigator, to see if this defense will work -- or whether it will backfire against the defense.

Diminished Capacity or Insanity

This defense is a claim that the defendant was under some mental incapacity to either be guilty of what he was charged or to mitigate the damage. It is extremely rare for an insanity defense to work. This is because the legal and medical definition of insanity are not the same. Legally, a person must not know that what they were doing was wrong.

For example, imagine an individual who is mentally ill and or not taking their medication. This person believes that they spoke to God, and that God told them to attack another person because that person was the devil. This may sound “crazy,” but this person may not have an insanity defense if he/she knew at the time that, although God told them to do it, that it was legally or morally wrong. On the other hand, imagine an individual who hits someone with a bat because they thought that they were hitting a baseball. This person would have a valid insanity defense, subject to evaluation by the state’s psychiatrist.

There are many other Criminal Defenses, and an experienced and aggressive NJ attorney is familiar with and uses all of them.

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