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In criminal defense, what is an 'affirmative' defense?


Facing criminal charges is a very serious situation and one that can quickly snowball out of control. A resident of Spokane could suddenly find himself or herself in dire need of a criminal defense. After speaking with a qualified criminal defense attorney, the defendant is likely to feel more at ease and begin understanding the processes of the criminal justice system.

After a person has been charged with a crime, the burden of proof is upon the state, not the defense, when it comes to demonstrating the defendant's guilt. The defense gets its turn to counter the allegations against the defendant and highlight doubts as they pertain to the alleged guilt of the accused. When defending a client, either at a criminal trial or during negotiations, a skilled defense attorney may use one or more types of defenses in order to best assert their client's rights.

One such defense is known as an affirmative defense. An affirmative defense is one that may essentially rule out the criminal liability of the defendant -- if the evidence presented in the defense proves credible. For example, an affirmative defense to domestic assault charges might be that the defendant actually acted in self-defense during the incident in question. Other examples of affirmative defenses include entrapment by authorities as well as necessity. In addition, insanity is also considered a type of affirmative defense.

An affirmative defense has the ability to negate the defendant's liability even if the state proves that the defendant committed the acts. For instance, in the aforementioned self-defense example, an affirmative defense can help a client even if the client assaulted someone else, provided that assault was demonstrated effectively to be in self-defense. For those facing assault charges and similar allegations, it may be beneficial to do what is necessary to start learning about appropriate defenses.

Source: Cornell University Legal Information Institute, "Affirmative Defense," accessed Jan. 28, 2016

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