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Is It Wise To Present Evidence In A Criminal Defense?

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From an emotional standpoint, one of the hardest things for people facing criminal charges to do is to simply let the prosecution wear itself out making a case. There's a strong temptation to push back by presenting evidence, but do you have to? Let's look at how a criminal defense attorney will usually approach this question.

The Simple Answer

In the simplest sense, the answer is that you don't have to present any evidence. At least in theory, a criminal law attorney should not have to do very much if their client is innocent.

Sometimes, that is the best defense. The idea is fairly simple in the sense that an innocent person doesn't necessarily have a lot to say about a thing they didn't do. Likewise, the entire burden of proof in a criminal case rests with the prosecution so long as the defendant does make an affirmative defense.

What's an Affirmative Defense?

One way to potentially scuttle the prosecution's case faster is to directly attack its legal relevance rather than focus on the facts. Typically, an affirmative defense acknowledges that the defendant did something. However, the defense asserts that there is a legal reason why those actions don't count as crimes.

A defendant might have believed their actions were legal, a potential defense for a crime like fraud where you must knowingly commit wrongdoing. Minors often assert defenses based on their inability to understand right from wrong.

Notably, a criminal law attorney who uses an affirmative defense must prove its credibility. In other words, the burden of proof shifts to the defense, and they will likely have to present evidence and testimony backing their claims. Self-defense falls into the affirmative category, too.

You should be aware that not all crimes work this way. For example, some crimes are illegal regardless of what a defendant knew at the time or what they understood to be legal.

Presenting Evidence in Other Scenarios

Another argument for presenting evidence is when it might significantly disrupt the prosecution's timeline or chain of evidence. If you have rock-solid proof that you were in another state at the time of an alleged crime, for example, you might want to present that.

Bear in mind that evidentiary rules apply to both sides. You will have to present your evidence to the judge for review during pre-trial hearings, and the prosecution will have a chance to try to investigate and refute it. For more information about hiring a criminal defense attorney, contact a local law firm, or check out a website like