A defense based on justification focuses on the offensive. A defence of justification argues that the defendant`s conduct should be legal rather than criminal because it supports a principle cherished by society. An apology-based defence focuses on the accused. An apology defence argues that although the accused committed the crime with criminal intent, the defendant should not be responsible for his conduct. The M`Naghten rule, which is the common law rules, requires that a defendant (1) not understand what he was doing at the time, or (2) not understand that what he did was wrong because of a mental illness. If an accused is legally mentally ill at the time the crime is committed, he or she cannot be convicted of mental illness. The legal definition of mental illness is not the same as the medical definition of mental illness, and the presence of a mental disorder or abnormality alone is not sufficient to establish that a defendant is legally ill with a mental illness.  The mental illness defense is not permitted in some states, but those states allow a “guilty but senseless” verdict that provides for institutionalization instead of imprisonment. Most states allow a verdict of “not guilty of mental illness” (or similar wording) that also allows defendants to be institutionalized as criminally insane. Armando is charged with burglary at Roman`s residence.
Armando decides to pursue two defenses. First, Armando claims that he was with Phil on the day and time of the robbery. This is called an alibi defense. Second, Armando asserts that due to the expiration of the statute of limitations, it is too late to prosecute him for burglary. Armando`s alibi defense is a factual defense; it is based on the fact that Armando could not have committed the burglary because he was elsewhere at the time of the burglary. Armando`s prescription defense is a legal defense because it is based on a law that limits the time the government has to prosecute Armando for burglary. Defences can be classified as denial or failure of proof, affirmative, imperfect or perfect. Defenses can also be classified as factual, legal, based on justification or excuse. Finally, defenses may be prepared by a court (common law) or by a state or federal legislature (statutory). According to the Supreme Court in Elonis v.
United States, 575 U.S. __ (2015), if a law does not prescribe a particular state of mind, a court will derive from it the “mens rea necessary to separate unlawful conduct from innocent behavior.” Constitutional violations include unlawful search and confiscation of your home, car, clothing or person, failing to obtain an entry warrant, obtaining an inadmissible confession, or reading your “Miranda rights” at the time of arrest. Police often make mistakes in the way they do their job. These mistakes may require the suppression of the evidence against you, or even the dismissal of the entire prosecution file. The Federal Government has also codified in the Federal Code of Criminal Procedure the specific procedures that must take place in criminal proceedings. Thank you for attending LawShelf`s video course on the basics of criminal law. We hope that this course will provide you with the background to criminal offences and criminal justice systems that will facilitate further study in the field and help you understand other areas of law for which criminal law serves as a basis. Please let us know if you have any questions or comments. There are two types of defences based on error: error of fact and error of law. A factual error can negate an element of the crime. For example, if a defendant is accused of theft, but mistakenly believes that the property belongs to them, the factual error would apply because it denies the specific intent required for the theft. An error of fact is not a defence to crimes where the error was the product of negligence or recklessness.
As explained in Chapter 2, “The Legal System in the United States,” states differ in their requirements regarding the burden of proof on the defendant when it comes to asserting a positive defense (Findlaw.com, 2010).
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