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A Comprehensive Guide to 10 Types of Legal Defenses in Criminal Law

Comprehensive Guide to 10 Types of Legal Defenses in Criminal Law | MBS Law
When it comes to criminal charges in the state of Colorado, every case is unique, presenting its own set of circumstances, evidence, and legal complexities. While there is no one-size-fits-all approach, there are several common criminal defense strategies that prove effective time and again in combating a wide range of allegations.
In this comprehensive guide, we explore 10 types of criminal defenses that our team frequently uses and discuss their nuances, applications, and potential impact on criminal trials. Whether you’re facing misdemeanor charges or serious felony allegations, understanding your legal defense options is crucial to protect your rights and achieve the best possible outcome in your case.

Tailoring Your Criminal Defense to Your Case

Before we dive into specific legal defense strategies, it is important to note that any seasoned criminal defense attorney will tailor their approach to the unique circumstances of your case. What works in one situation may not be effective in another, and successful defenses require a careful analysis of the facts, evidence, and legal principles at play.

That being said, there are several common defense tactics that criminal law firms may employ to challenge charges and safeguard the rights of their clients.


One of the most straightforward defense strategies, an alibi involves presenting evidence that the defendant was elsewhere at the time of the alleged crime. If the defendant has a strong alibi case, this typically creates reasonable doubt that they committed the crime in question.
The defense can employ witnesses, surveillance footage, electronic records, and other forms of documentation to corroborate the defendant’s claim of being in a different location when the alleged crime occurred.


In cases where an alleged criminal act was unintentional or resulted from an unforeseen accident, your legal team may use an accident defense. This defense asserts that the defendant lacked the requisite intent or “mens rea” to commit the crime and therefore should not be held criminally liable for the outcome.
Note that this defense will not be effective in strict liability cases, where proving intent is not necessary to convict. A common example is statutory rape – even if the defendant was unaware of the alleged victim’s age, they can still be convicted of rape. The act alone is enough to convict.

Defense: Self-Defense, Defense of Others, Defense of Property

Self-defense is a fundamental legal principle in the state of Colorado, allowing individuals to use reasonable force to protect themselves from imminent harm or danger. In criminal cases involving allegations of assault, battery, or homicide, the self-defense defense asserts that the defendant’s actions were justified because they were necessary to prevent harm to themselves or others.

However, there are several cases in which self-defense (or defense of others) is not justifiable.

  • The defendant initiated the altercation and did not recede from it.
  • The defendant consented to the use of force.
  • The defendant provoked someone else in order to cause harm.

When it comes to property defense, deadly force is never permitted except in the case of arson prevention.

Entrapment or Duress

Entrapment occurs when law enforcement officers induce or coerce an individual into committing a crime that they would not have otherwise committed. Similarly, the duress defense applies when a person commits a crime under threat or coercion from another party, such as a threat of violence or harm to themselves or their loved ones.

Note that duress cannot be used as a defense for a Class 1 felony in the state of Colorado.


The necessity defense, also called the choice of two evils defense, asserts that the defendant committed the alleged crime out of necessity to prevent a greater harm or danger. This defense requires demonstrating that there was an immediate threat of harm, no reasonable alternative course of action, and that the harm caused by the defendant’s actions was outweighed by the harm prevented.

While necessity and duress are often used interchangeably, they are not the same. Duress requires someone else to threaten you into an action, whereas necessity need not involve another person.

False Accusation

Sometimes, an individual falsely accuses another of a crime out of spite, anger, or resentment, even if the crime never actually occurred. This is a case of false accusation. When representing a client who has fallen prey to a false accusation, the defense must prove an ulterior motive or malicious intent on behalf of the accuser. If the defense is successful, they can seriously undermine the accuser’s credibility.

Mistaken Identity

Mistaken identity occurs when witnesses or victims incorrectly identify the defendant as the perpetrator of a crime. This defense involves presenting evidence to show that the defendant was not present at the scene of the crime or that there is reasonable doubt as to their identity as the perpetrator.
This can be a strong defense in cases that involve eyewitnesses. Because eyewitness accounts rely on memory, which is highly malleable and subjective, they are relatively unreliable when it comes to identifying perpetrators.
Law enforcement can also play a role in causing mistaken identity, whether intentional or not. For example, using suggestive lineups or coercing a witness to identify a given suspect can lead to mistaken identity in many cases.

Police Misconduct

In cases where law enforcement officers engage in misconduct, such as fabrication of evidence, coercion of witnesses, or unlawful interrogation tactics, the police misconduct defense may be raised to challenge the integrity of the prosecution’s case and seek suppression of evidence obtained through unlawful means.

Lack of Probable Cause

The Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution protects individuals from unreasonable searches and seizures by law enforcement. If law enforcement obtains evidence without probable cause or in violation of the defendant’s constitutional rights, this evidence can be deemed inadmissible by the court, which can greatly weaken the prosecution’s case against you.
The lack of probable cause defense is most commonly used in traffic stop cases. If the police did not have probable cause to pull you over in the first place, then whatever they may find upon searching your vehicle could be suppressed in court.


The primary goal of the intoxication defense is to prove that the defendant was not capable of forming the requisite intent for the crime. There are two different forms of this defense:
  1. Voluntary intoxication: The defendant became willingly intoxicated.
  2. Involuntary intoxication: Someone else got the defendant drunk or drugged them.

Of the two, involuntary intoxication is a much stronger defense, showing that the defendant had no role in their impaired state. Because this defense revolves primarily around intent, it has little to no application for crimes that require only general intent or strict liability.

MBS Law: Expert Criminal Defense Lawyers in Denver

Navigating the criminal justice system in Colorado is far from simple, especially when you are facing serious criminal charges. Don’t put your freedom at risk; trust Mastro, Barnes & Stazzone, P.C. (MBS Law) to support you throughout your case. Our experienced attorneys are dedicated to providing personalized legal representation and strategic advocacy to individuals facing criminal charges in Denver and beyond. With decades of combined experience and a track record of success, we have the knowledge, skills, and resources to craft a strong defense tailored to your unique situation.

Contact us today to get started with a FREE consultation, where we will discuss the details of your case and the best next steps.

Helping Clients Throughout the Denver Metro Area

Helping Clients Throughout the Denver Metro Area

Seeking legal assistance for a criminal case? Contact us today.

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