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Common criminal defense strategies

On Behalf of | Nov 6, 2023 | State Criminal Defense

The California Department of Justice reported an arrest rate of 2,535 per 100,000 people in 2022. After an arrest, most individuals face prosecution, which requires figuring out a defense strategy.

These strategies aim to challenge the prosecution’s case, protect the defendant’s rights and cast doubt on the evidence.

Presumption of innocence

A fundamental principle of criminal defense is the presumption of innocence. This means the burden of proof rests on the prosecution to establish the defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Criminal defense often begins by highlighting this presumption and emphasizing the prosecution’s obligation to prove the case.

Reasonable doubt

One of the most powerful defense strategies is to create reasonable doubt in the minds of the jury. Defense attorneys may challenge the credibility of witnesses, question the reliability of evidence or offer alternative explanations for the alleged crime.


An alibi defense involves presenting evidence that the defendant was not present at the scene of the crime. This may include alibi witnesses, surveillance footage or records that can verify the defendant’s location at the time of the alleged offense.


In cases involving acts of self-defense, the defense argues that the defendant’s actions were a reasonable response to a perceived threat or danger. This strategy involves demonstrating that the defendant acted to protect themselves or others from harm.

Insanity or diminished capacity

When a defendant’s mental state is in question, the defense may raise issues of insanity or diminished capacity. This strategy involves presenting evidence that the defendant was not in their right mind at the time of the offense, which can impact their culpability.

Illegal search and seizure

The Fourth Amendment protects individuals from illegal searches and seizures by law enforcement. If officers obtained evidence through an illegal search or seizure, the defense may file a motion to exclude such evidence from the case.


Entrapment is a defense strategy that asserts law enforcement induced or coerced the defendant to commit a crime they would not have otherwise committed. This strategy questions the integrity of the investigation and the role of undercover agents.

Chain of custody

Maintaining the chain of custody of evidence ensures its reliability and admissibility in court. The defense may challenge the evidence’s chain of custody to cast doubt on its credibility.

The field of criminal defense relies on various strategies to protect the rights of the accused. Each case is unique, and the choice of defense strategy depends on the specific circumstances and the best course of action for the accused.