Whether they should be or not, the reality is that all criminal offenses are not treated equally by anyone involved in the criminal justice system. When it comes to violent crimes, law enforcement officers tend to work a little harder to figure out who committed the crime and apprehend the perpetrator. Prosecutors often spend more time on violent crime cases and are less inclined to offer the accused a fair plea agreement and judges typically hand down harsher sentences when the defendant is convicted of a crime of violence. If you are currently the defendant in a violent crime case, this isn’t likely what you want to hear. The good news is that an experienced Nebraska criminal defense attorney can help you. At this point though, you may be wondering “How does an attorney defend violent crime charges?” Because every criminal prosecution is unique, and every attorney has his/her own individual approach to preparing a defense, there is no “one size fits all” answer to that question. There are, however, some strategies that are often used by an attorney when defending clients accused of violent crimes.
What Qualifies as a “Violent Crime?”
Although most people assume that a “violent crime” is simply a criminal offense in which violence was used or threatened, there is an actual legal definition for the term “violent crime.” In the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Program, violent crime is composed of four offenses: murder and non-negligent manslaughter, forcible rape, robbery, and aggravated assault. Violent crimes are defined in the UCR Program as those offenses which involve force or threat of force.
Possible Defense Strategies in a Violent Crime Prosecution
The unique facts and circumstances of a case always dictate the defense strategy adopted by the defense attorney; however, in violent crimes, there are some common defense strategies that an attorney will at least explore, including:
- The Victim – while an attorney must be very careful when using a “blame the victim” defense, the victim may still be the key to a defense without outright blaming the victim. If the charge is murder, for example, a defense attorney might be able to use the affirmative defense of self-defense if the facts support such a defense. If the charge is rape, however, asserting that the victim – in any way – is responsible is usually a sure fire path to a conviction. That doesn’t mean, however, that the victim should be ruled out completely as part of the defense strategy. Even in a rape case, for example, the victim might have a well-documented motive for lying or exaggerating what actually happened.
- The Co-Defendants – another possible defense strategy focuses on co-defendants, if there are any. One possible route is to claim that a co-defendant was the one who used force or threatened the victim and that you (the defendant the attorney is representing) never participated in any acts of violence. Although it won’t result in a complete acquittal in most cases it might get your charges significantly reduced. Another possibility is to claim that you yourself were forced to participate in the crime if a co-defendant had the ability to threaten or coerce you.
- Mitigating Factors – mitigating factors cannot exactly be used as a defense, but more of an explanation. Sometimes, they will lessen the severity of a crime in the eyes of a prosecutor, judge, or jury with regard to sentencing. For example, if you have a drug problem or a history of abuse as a child, it might be enough to get you a sentence that focuses on rehabilitation instead of punishment. Occasionally, a mitigating factor could actually be enough to avoid a conviction. If you have a mental illness, for example, you might not have had the “mens rea,” or state of mind, needed to commit the crime, in which case you cannot be convicted. In that case, you might be sent to a mental health treatment facility instead of prison or placed in a diversion program that requires you to seek treatment for your condition.
As you can see, the answer to “How does an attorney defend violent crime charges” is not a simple answer. If you are facing charges for a violent crime in Nebraska you should have an experienced Nebraska criminal defense attorney evaluate your case right away to decide if you have a valid defense that could help you avoid a lengthy prison sentence and maybe even a conviction.
If you are currently facing charges for a violent crime in Nebraska, it is certainly in your best interest to consult with an experienced Nebraska criminal defense attorney right away. In Nebraska contact Petersen Criminal Defense Law 24 hours a day at 402-509-8070 to discuss your case with an experienced criminal defense lawyer.