Offenses versus Defenses
While the distinction between wrongdoing and attribution is well understood in Germany and other Continental legal systems, lawyers in the common law tradition are more likely to classify issues by dividing them into the categories of offenses and defenses. Homicide, theft, and rape are offenses. Self-defense, necessity, consent, mistake, and insanity are all defenses. These two modes of classification are at odds with each other. The category of defenses typically includes all claims of justification and excuse, which explains why this distinction was long ignored in the common law tradition. Yet the distinction between offenses and defenses raises an important philosophical boundary that finds application as well in the structure that derives from the distinction between wrongdoing and attribution.
The fundamental idea behind the distinction between offenses and defenses is that some allegations inculpate suspects and others exculpate them. Offenses inculpate, and defenses exculpate. That is why the distinction has procedural implications. Defense counsel should raise "defenses." Causing death appears to inculpate and therefore should be classified as an element of the offense of homicide. Claims of self - defense and insanity appear to exculpate and therefore should be classified as defenses. Offenses and defenses both carry labels. The prosecution charges the offense by name (murder, rape, theft) in the information or indictment. The defense raises one or more defenses (self-defense, insanity) in response.