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10 Common Legal Defenses


Because accidents happen regularly, California law recognizes this, and excuses alleged criminal conduct that occurs accidentally. However, this only applies if the crime that you accidentally committed was without criminal intent or negligence. With this, you should bear no criminal liability, yet, in some accident cases, prosecutors may still file charges if it appears you acted with ordinary or criminal negligence. Ordinary negligence takes place when you fail to act as a “reasonably prudent” person would have. In California, this means you present a nonchalant or reckless attitude towards what resulted from the accident while in court.


If you are accused of a crime, but could have not committed it because you were elsewhere during the time the crime was committed, you have an alibi. Alibis are one of the most commonly used legal defenses and are pretty much foolproof in most cases if the it can be corroborated with witnesses, surveillance tapes, credit card receipts or other evidence.


Whether a defendant is legally insane is determined using a method known as the M’Naghten Rule in California. Along with this method, which basically is a test of “right and wrong”, the defense must be able to prove that the defendant committed the crime only because they did not understand the nature of their act and/or they were unable to distinguish right from wrong. Further, with insanity defense, it needs to be proven by a preponderance of the evidence. If found not guilty by reason of insanity, they will most likely be committed to a psychiatric facility until the court believes they are no longer a danger to society.

Police Misconduct

Unfortunately, in California, it is not uncommon to see acts of police misconduct, abuse, and/or excessive force. Some examples would be:

  • Unnecessarily using tasers or pepper spray on cooperative subjects
  • Planting evidence
  • Lying or embellishing facts in crime reports or courtroom testimony

Identifying police conduct not only gives you leverage towards winning a criminal case, it may allow you to press civil rights claims and seek money damages.

Self-Defense and Defense of Others

If you injure or kill another person in self-defense or in defending another person, your conduct will be excused under the California self-defense law. However, your actions must be considered reasonable, meaning you must have felt you or the other person were facing inevitable danger.


If you committed a crime, but for the harassment, threats, or coercion of the police and their agents, you were entrapped and the California entrapment defense will apply to you. Essentially, this means the police, generally undercover, persuaded you to commit a crime. Entrapment is frequently used as a defense for drug crimes and sex offenses in California. If you use entrapment as legal defense, you must prove by a preponderance of the evidence. This means,  more likely than not, the only reason you committed the crime was because of overreaching police conduct.

False Accusations/Wrongful Arrest

People commonly get prosecuted based on false allegations. Whether this be for revenge, anger, money, jealousy, or a variety of other reasons, working with a criminal defense lawyer to investigate these types of allegations will aid in revealing the truth and clearing your name.  

Coerced Confessions

Coerced confessions are when the police take extreme measures to coerce an involuntary confession. This generally takes place during an interrogation and some tactic examples are:

  • Food, sleep or water deprivation
  • Threatening harm or punishment
  • Offering leniency or making false promises in exchange for a confession
  • Continues questioning after a lawyer has been requested

Often times, these tactics can be so severe, it’s common for innocent people to admit crimes they never actually committed. If it can be shown you were coerced into a confession by the police, the judge may exclude your confession form the evidence and/or the case could be dropped entirely.

Lack of Probable Cause

Probable cause means an officer honestly believes that criminal activity is or was taking place based on the surrounding circumstances. Under California search and seizure rules, an officer must have probable cause before they can make an arrest or detain you and if it appears the officer stopped, detained or arrested you without probable cause, your criminal defense attorney may file a suppression motion. This means your lawyer would ask the court to exclude all evidence that was obtained by an improper search and seizure. If the motion is granted, your case will most likely be dismissed.


Under California law, criminal conduct may be excused if you committed a crime because you truly felt your life was in immediate danger. This means you only committed a crime because another person’s threats or menacing actions compelled you to do so.

Yet, under PC 187 in California, you may not kill another person to save your own life unless it was self-defense.

Are You Facing Criminal Charges?

If you are facing criminal charges and feel any of these defense strategies may apply to your situation, contact Premier Federal Criminal Defenders today. Our dedicated criminal defense attorneys have years of experience and will work with you to form a defense strategy that will protect your freedom.

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