A Layperson's Guide to Criminal Law

By Raneta Lawson Mack | Go to book overview

7
Criminal Law Defenses

Insanity is often the logic of an accurate mind overtasked.

-- Oliver Wendell Holmes

In every criminal trial, the government is constitutionally required to prove its case against the defendant beyond a reasonable doubt. Additionally, defendants in criminal cases have a constitutional right to be free from compelled self-incrimination. Taken together, these concepts mean that in criminal cases, the government must independently investigate, obtain and present evidence against defendants. Criminal defendants are not required to speak or otherwise respond to the government's case against them, and the government shoulders the entire responsibility for proving its case.

Notwithstanding these prosecutorial responsibilities and constitutional protections, many criminal defendants voluntarily choose to present evidence during a criminal trial in response to the government's case. Such evidence might challenge the government's case-in-chief and/or attempt to present an excuse or justification for the defendant's behavior. Evidence challenging the government's case-in-chief will usually seek to demonstrate that the government does not have sufficient evidence to prove one or all of the material elements of the crime (i.e., the act, the mental state, causation and social harm) beyond a reasonable doubt. In challenging the government's case-in-chief, a defendant might also introduce evidence designed to prove that the government has charged the wrong person. This is known as an "alibi" defense, and the defendant will typically present evidence in the

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A Layperson's Guide to Criminal Law
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Preface ix
  • Introduction xi
  • 1 - A Brief History of Crime and Punishment in America 1
  • 2 - Basic Concepts of Criminal Law 19
  • 3 - Unlawful Killings 43
  • 4 - Sexual Assault and Related Offenses 65
  • 5 - Preparatory Criminal Conduct 87
  • 6 - Theft Offenses 111
  • 7 - Criminal Law Defenses 131
  • 8 - Miscellaneous Criminal Offenses 157
  • 9 - The Criminal Process 175
  • Glossary 191
  • Bibliography 197
  • Index 199
  • About the Author 203
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