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Common Florida Legal Defenses: A Primer

Legal defenses come in several different flavors in Florida. A good attorney will be able to craft a proper defense to a charge after considering the laws involved and the facts at hand. The following article will delve into several common defenses to crimes in the state of Florida.

Basics

Every criminal charge in Florida requires the state to prove two things:

  • that a crime was in fact committed, and
  • the person on trial is the one who committed that crime.

As a result, defenses to crimes generally fall into two broad categories:

  • Lack of evidence, and
  • justification.

If the defense attorney is able to successfully argue either one of those points, an acquittal is typically the result.

Lack Of Evidence

American jurisprudence is based upon the premise that every defendant is innocent by default, and that guilt must be shown beyond a reasonable doubt. Occasionally it is sufficient for the defendant to, in effect, require the state to reveal its evidence by pleading not guilty on the assumption that the evidence the prosecutor has is not sufficient to prove a charge. However, in many cases it is helpful for the defendant to put forth an alternative set of facts, such as an alibi or evidence that the state’s evidence was not handled correctly.

Justification

The other category of defenses to crime in Florida is that of justification. Justification defenses may come in many forms, but they all boil down to the defendant admitting to the crime but arguing that he or she cannot or should not be held responsible for that crime.

Duress

The defense of duress says that the defendant committed the crime, but he or she did so was compelled to do it because of some threat of force or harm. If the defendant committed the crime because another person threatened to kidnap and kill a family member if the defendant did not carry out the crime, the defendant did not form the requisite mens rea, or state of mind, to have criminal intent. However, duress may only be used for situations in which the defendant was unable to escape the threat.

Entrapment

Entrapment is when law enforcement entices a person to commit a crime he or she would not have committed otherwise. This defense is frequently used against charges filed as the result of a sting by the police.

Florida recognizes two types of entrapment

  • Subjective and
  • objective.

Subjective entrapment is a situation in which law enforcement entices a defendant from committing an act outside his or her usual behavior. Objective entrapment is when law enforcement engages in egregious behavior to entice the defendant into committing a crime.

Intoxication

Intoxication is not typically allowed to be used as a defense to crime except for in two different situations. The more common usage is using intoxication as a defense when the defendant was under the influence of a legal prescription for medicine written by a doctor. Less commonly used is the defense of involuntary intoxication, which is when a defendant was either unaware that he or she had ingested an intoxicating substance or was compelled to ingest an intoxicating substance by another.

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