What are the Most Common Criminal Defense Cases?

Law and Order

In a criminal case where a defendant goes on trial for allegedly committing a crime, the prosecutor must prove beyond all reasonable doubt that the defendant is guilty of the crime. Until then, the defendant is innocent until proven guilty and is entitled to build their defense through different means. If you’re in need of a strong defense team and solid legal counsel, look for the best law firms available in your area. If you’re in California, try contacting a Santa Ana criminal defense law firm

There are three types of the most common criminal defenses: first, that the defendant was not in a proper state of mind to understand the significance of the criminal act committed; second, that the defendant was justified in committing the crime; and third, no crime occurred. Below are the most common examples of each category.

The defendant did not commit the crime

In these defenses, the defendant denies having committed any crime because circumstances made it impossible for them to do so. The most common defense used under this category is the alibi defense.

Alibi Defense

The strength of this defense relies on having sufficient and credible evidence to build an alibi for the defendant and prove that they were elsewhere. The defense can use eyewitnesses, security footage, receipts, and traceable phone calls to fortify the alibi.

The defendant was not in a proper state of mind

Under this category, the criminal defendant argues based on logic: a criminal, to be convicted as such, must understand that what the action they’re committing is a crime and must be fully aware of the consequences. Thus, if an individual commits an act without knowing that their actions were wrong, they can’t be found guilty of the crime. 

Intoxication Defense

The intoxication defense argues that the defendant cannot be found guilty despite committing the crime. They could not understand what they were doing because they were under a substance that altered their state of mind. The defense case is more potent if the intoxication was involuntary because some states don’t excuse criminal actions done under voluntary intoxication.

Insanity Defense

Under an insanity defense, the defendant must prove that they have a mental disorder that makes them incapable of understanding conventional standards of morality and which actions are right and wrong. The condition can also make them incapable of resisting violent impulses and controlling their actions. In this case, the defendant is held in a psychiatric facility instead of being sent to prison.

The defendant was justified in committing the crime

Under this category, the defendant also doesn’t deny committing the crime but instead argues that they should not be held criminally liable because there were circumstances that justified the unlawful act. The two most commonly recognized defenses are self-defense and duress.

Self-defense or in defense of others

The defendant may confess to committing the crime, but only because they were in a situation that called for such actions. The use of force and the intent to inflict serious harm is justified to protect oneself or others if there was unlawful aggression on the part of the victim. The defendant must be reasonable in believing that self-defense was necessary, and the amount of force used must also be reasonable.

Defense of Duress

Duress is the defense where the defendant argues that they should not be held criminally liable for any criminal act committed because they were coerced into committing the act. Under this defense, it must be established that there was an immediate threat of death and that the defendant had no means of escaping except by committing the crime.

No crime occurred

In this situation, the defense argues that although it appears that there was a crime and that there were allegations against the defendant, no crime ever occurred. The most common defense used under this category is the defense of consent.

Defense of consent

This line of defense is most commonly used in property theft and sexual assault cases. In using this defense, the defendant must prove that the victim gave consent. However, consent as a defense will be considered inapplicable under specific circumstances: the permission was given by an individual that did not have any authority to do so (as in property theft); the victim is underage, has a mental disorder, or was intoxicated; and the consent was not voluntarily given and was obtained by force or coercion.


If you find yourself facing serious criminal charges, the first thing to do is seek legal counsel. While the list above identifies the most common criminal defense cases, the first step to building a solid defense is to ask for help from a criminal defense lawyer.

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