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A Guide To Common Defenses In Criminal Cases

criminal defense lawyer cherry hill njCriminal Defense Overview

If you are facing criminal charges, it is important to know some of the legal tools you can use to defend yourself in a court of law. Knowing what legal defenses apply to certain situations can help you defeat the charges against you and keep you from enduring the punishment and criminal record that comes with a conviction. Criminal defense, as a legal term, refers to the strategy that you and your attorney use to combat the prosecutor’s charges and evidence of your guilt. And remember, a prosecutor needs to prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, which makes their burden much higher than in a civil lawsuit. Here is a rundown of some of the most commonly cited defenses used by those charged in criminal courts.


This is usually the one people think of first when it comes to criminal defenses. Generally, self-defense refers to a situation where a person inflicts some sort of harm on another person, but by law their use of force is justified. For example, if someone attacks you with a knife, you are legally allowed to use reasonable force to defend yourself from serious bodily harm or death. Every state defines self-defense a little differently, and there can be a big difference in what is considered reasonable force depending on the jurisdiction. Some states have the requirement that the victim attempt to escape the attack first, while others do not. These states are known as “stand your ground” states.


This defense states that while the defendant did indeed violate the law they have been accused of, imminent threat of death or serious bodily injury forced them to do so. The risk of harm to the defendant must be greater than the damage they cause, and they need to show that there was no other less harmful reasonable alternative to the action. A good example is if someone is lost in the woods during a terrible winter storm, and must break into a cabin for shelter. Even though their actions were not legal, not doing so might cost them their life. Note that necessity is different from self-defense.


Here, the defendant’s argument is that they only committed the crime because they (or someone else) is placed under threat of serious harm or death. For example, if a person is told to rob a bank or else his wife and children will be killed, he can claim the affirmative defense of duress when charged with the robbery.

Involuntary Intoxication

This defense is a little more complicated, and is only applicable in limited circumstances. The intoxication is involuntary if someone forces drugs or alcohol upon the defendant or tricks the defendant into taking them. The intoxication affects the defendant’s mental state to the point where they don’t know what they are doing is wrong. Involuntary intoxication defenses go towards defeating the mental state (mens rea) the prosecutor needs to show to get a conviction.

Contact An Experienced Criminal Defense Lawyer About Your Criminal Charges In NJ Today

Were you arrested or charged with a crime in NJ? The consequences of a conviction could be severe, leaving you with a permanent criminal record and possibly even sending you to jail. That is why you need to speak with a qualified criminal defense attorney as soon as possible about your case. David Gelman, of Gelman Law, LLC has successfully represented clients in criminal matters throughout New Jersey. Call us at 856-861-4236 or fill out the online contact form to schedule a consultation with a member of our legal team. We have an office conveniently located at 1940 Rt. 70 East, Suite 4, Cherry Hill, NJ 08003.

The articles on this blog are for informative purposes only and are no substitute for legal advice or an attorney-client relationship. If you are seeking legal advice, please contact our law firm directly.

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