A successful criminal defense requires that you generate a reasonable doubt about whether you committed a crime or not. The evidence that the state gathers against you will have a direct impact on the kind of defense strategy you utilize in court.

Many people defend themselves by raising an alibi to show they weren’t present at the scene of a crime or by challenging the validity of a search warrant and keeping certain evidence out of court. Undermining the accuracy of certain evidence or showing that police violated the law while collecting it can help someone successfully avoid a conviction.

However, sometimes there is a very clear connection between someone accused of a criminal offense and the circumstances that lead to their charges. When the prosecutor has security camera footage, physical evidence, testimony from multiple witnesses or other solid proof tying you to a criminal act, then you may need to consider an affirmative defense to avoid a conviction in criminal court.

What is an affirmative defense?

If you go to court and say that you did what the prosecutors claim but your actions were not technically illegal, that is an affirmative defense. You enter a plea of not guilty and seek to prove that you did not actually break the law.

One of the most common defense strategies is a claim of self-defense when accused of a violent criminal act. If you acted not to cause harm to the other person but to protect yourself or someone else, your actions may not have violated Washington state law.

Insanity or an inability to have criminal intent is another common affirmative defense. People can also claim duress, such as when a criminal holds family members hostage and forces someone to rob a bank.

How affirmative defenses may help

Not everyone will have the option of challenging evidence in court or proving that someone else committed the crime. For those who have already admitted they engaged in certain behaviors or who face a very strong case from the prosecution, an affirmative defense could be the simplest and most successful strategy to avoid a criminal conviction.

Exploring all of your options for defending against criminal charges will help you select the best way forward after your arrest.