If you have been charged with a serious criminal offence, you may be wondering what defences are available to you. We have compiled a short list of defences as an overview. Of course, not every defence is applicable to every case. Speak to an experienced criminal defence lawyer about whether you have a viable defence to your case.
Alibi: This is a defence that can be raised where the accused could not have committed the offence because he was not physically present at the location of the offence when it occurred. If the court concludes that the accused did not have the opportunity to commit the offence because he was elsewhere, the accused may be found not guilty.
If an accused maintains that he was elsewhere at the time of the offence, it is critical that this be discussed privately with an experienced criminal defence lawyer. This is important because it may be necessary to privately interview witnesses and secure evidence to confirm that the accused was at a location other than where the offence occurred. It is also important to discuss this privately with an experienced criminal defence lawyer because the lawyer will need to decide when and how to provide the necessary notice of the alibi to the crown. Although usually the defence does not have to disclose anything to the crown, the law does suggest that the crown and police should be given a reasonable opportunity to investigate any alibi defence. If this notice is not given, the alibi defence can be rejected by the court.
Provocation: This is a defence which is commonly misunderstood. Provocation can only be used to reduce the charge of murder to manslaughter. Provocation is not a defence to other circumstances. Generally, the accused must have committed the offence “in the heat of passion caused by sudden provocation”. It must be a wrongful act of such a nature that it would deprive an ordinary person of the ability to self control. The accused must have acted suddenly before there was any time to consider the actions or to cool his passion.
Self Defence: This is a defence that may be available to a person who committed the wrongful but did so to prevent harm to him ro herself, to others under their protection or to their property.
This defence is complicated and it is therefore critical that the accused discuss with an experienced criminal defence lawyer the circumstances of any possible self defence. Generally, there needs to be evidence of the “necessity” to have committed the act by using force and the force used needs to be “reasonable”.
Automatism: This is a defence where the accused is in a state of impaired consciousness with no voluntary control over his or her actions.
Intoxication: Intoxication may render an accused’s actions involuntary and therefore the accused may not have formed the mental intention to commit the offence. There are complicated issues surrounding whether or not the intoxication was voluntary or involuntary.