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Common Defenses to Criminal Charges in Georgia

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If you’re charged with a crime in Georgia, you don’t have to prove your innocence, but you may be able to raise defenses that will weaken or defeat the prosecution’s case. You must prove the essential facts of your defense, but your burden in doing so is far lower than the prosecution’s burden of proof beyond a reasonable doubt.

There are multiple defenses to criminal charges provided in the Georgia Code which is the main body of state statutes. These statutory defenses fall into three main categories: (1) responsibility, (2) justification and excuse and (3) alibi.

The first category of defenses consists of reasons why the defendant was not responsible for his or her actions. Some of these reasons are:

  • Minimum age — A person cannot be charged with a crime in Georgia for his or her conduct before reaching 13 years of age.
  • Mental capacity/insanity — A defendant can raise the insanity defense if he or she did not have the mental capacity to know what is right and what is wrong.
  • Delusional compulsion — This means the defendant was suffering from a delusion so strong that it overrode his or her ability to resist breaking the law.
  • Intoxication — This defense applies if the defendant, by excusable ignorance or the workings of a third party, became so intoxicated that he or she could not distinguish right from wrong.
  • Mistake of fact — This defense asserts that a defendant reasonably and honestly believed that his or her actions were justified but misunderstood the situation.

The second category of defenses are based upon the defendant having either a justification or an excuse for the behavior. These defenses are:

  • Justification — There are some instances when a defendant can show that he or she had a duty to act and acted reasonably, such as a police officer who shoots a suspect while in hot pursuit.
  • Defense of self, others or property — This defense asserts that the action taken was legal because it was necessary to protect the defendant or others from physical harm or to protect property from being damage.
  • Entrapment — This defense means that the defendant would not have committed a crime but for the actions of law enforcement.
  • Coercion — This defense applies if the defendant reasonably believed he or she would be killed or would incur serious bodily injury for not committing the crime. Coercion is not a defense to murder.

The third category of defense is an alibi, which means proving the defendant was nowhere near the area where and when the alleged crime occurred. In addition to these statutory defenses, there are common law defenses that an experienced Georgia criminal law attorney may be able assert based on an analysis of the case.

If you’ve been arrested for any crime in Georgia, James D. Michael, P.C. in Decatur is ready to come to your defense. We represent clients in and around DeKalb, Fulton and Gwinnett counties. Please call us at 404-857-4059 or contact us online.