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A Comprehensive Guide to Affirmative Defenses in Federal Criminal Cases

Posted by Ann Fitz | Apr 07, 2023

When an individual is charged with a federal crime, they may be able to assert an affirmative defense as part of their legal defense. An affirmative defense is an argument that a defendant can make that their actions were legally justified or excused. In this blog post, we will discuss what affirmative defenses are, how they work in a federal criminal case, and the types of affirmative defenses that may be available to a defendant.

What are Affirmative Defenses?

An affirmative defense is an argument made by a defendant during a criminal trial that their actions were legally justifiable or excusable. An affirmative defense may be used to provide evidence that the defendant was not guilty of the crime because there was some form of justification for their actions. The burden of proof for an affirmative defense rests with the defendant, which means it's up to them to provide enough evidence to prove that their actions were legally justifiable or excusable.

How Do Affirmative Defenses Work in Federal Criminal Cases?

Affirmative defenses may be used in federal criminal cases as a way for defendants to argue that their actions were legally justified or excused. Affirmative defenses are different from traditional defenses like self-defense because they do not directly challenge the facts of the case but instead argue that even if all of the facts presented by the prosecution are true, the defendant should still not be found guilty due to some form of legal justification or excuse. For example, if someone is charged with tax evasion, they could argue as an affirmative defense that they had reasonable cause for not paying taxes due to some extenuating circumstances such as economic hardship or medical issues.

Types of Affirmative Defenses

Some common types of affirmative defenses include duress (acting under threat), entrapment (being encouraged by law enforcement officers), mistake of fact (not knowing something was illegal), necessity (preventing greater harm by breaking the law), and insanity (lack of mental capacity). Depending on the type and severity of the crime, other types of affirmative defenses may also be available for defendants facing federal criminal charges. It's important to note that each state has different laws governing when and how these types of defenses can be used so it's important for defendants to consult with an experienced attorney who can advise them on what type(s) of affirmative defense(s) might be available in their specific case.

In summary, when facing federal criminal charges, defendants might have access to one or more types of affirmative defenses if they are able to present enough evidence that their actions were legally justified or excusable under applicable laws. It's important for individuals facing federal criminal charges to consult with an experienced attorney who can help determine whether any type(s)of affirmative defense(s) may be advisable in order to provide the most effective legal defense possible for their case. By understanding your rights and exploring all potential legal options available, you can ensure you receive fair treatment during your proceedings and put yourself in a better position for achieving a favorable outcome in your case.

About the Author

Ann Fitz

Attorney Ann Fitz Attorney Ann Fitz has 20 years of experience as a federal criminal attorney and appellate practice attorney.  She began her career as a prosecutor in 2003 and started her own federal criminal defense practice in 2007.  She is devoted to protecting the rights of the accused in f...

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