Understanding Procedural Vs. Affirmative Criminal Defenses

In American law, there are roughly three classes of defenses that can be used when responding to a criminal charge. These are procedural defenses, affirmatives ones, and negative ones. Note that they are not mutually exclusive, and a criminal law attorney may elect to use any of the three strategies to protect a client's rights and freedom. Let's take a look at what these defenses are and how they might be employed.

Procedural Defenses

This class of defenses covers the basic idea that prosecutors can't just run roughshod over people's rights. You have a constitutionally recognized right in America to have the charges against you presented in a structured manner so you can respond to them in kind. The most basic of procedural defenses question whether charges can even be brought.

For example, questioning whether the statute of limitations has expired is a classic procedural argument. A criminal defense attorney isn't bothering in such a case to even discuss whether something happened, if it's even a crime or whether or not the defendant is innocent. They're simply telling the court that the prosecution failed to bring charges in a timely enough fashion to satisfy society's basic understanding of the rule of law. Process arguments also include things like questioning probable cause, dealing with the introduction of evidence and testimony, looking at charging documents and even assessing how the police did their work.

Affirmative Defenses

These defenses generally assert something factual that, if proven, completely torpedoes the prosecution's argument a crime was committed. Self-defense is a classic affirmative defense when someone acknowledges that certain events happened but that they were acting legally. Necessity is another argument, such as when someone who was speeding says they did so to get to the emergency room. Duress is a defense if someone can prove they were acting under coercion from another part.

Affirmative defenses can be tricky because they concede a lot of ground upfront. If a defendant fails to prove they had good cause for their actions, there's a risk the whole defense can collapse.

Negative Defenses

A negative defense is one that argues that the prosecution's case is hollow. An outright denial that anything happened at all is a negative defense. Similarly, indicating that something criminal may have happened but that you're not the person who did it is presentable in many cases. In other words, the argument is that the prosecution is either wrong or mistaken.

To learn more about criminal law, contact a company like Daniels Long & Pinsel.