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General Defenses in Criminal Cases

These are defenses that your defense criminal law attorney can raise in court to negate your responsibility for a crime committed. In Texas, common criminal defenses may involve asserting that the prosecution lacks sufficient evidence to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, arguing that the defendant acted in self-defense, or claiming that they lacked the intent required to commit the alleged crime. Another defense often used in Texas courts is the insanity defense. 

Insanity Defense

This type of defense is super difficult to prove in court, but depending on the charge, it can protect you from criminal responsibility. The defense of insanity is based on the idea that the defendant was not responsible for their actions at the time of the crime because they suffered from a mental illness or defect that impaired their ability to understand the wrongfulness of their conduct.

Insanity Defense in Texas: Understanding Section 8.01

Section 8.01 of the Texas Penal Code governs the insanity defense in Texas. The statute provides that a defendant is not responsible for their criminal conduct if at the time of the conduct, as a result of severe mental disease or defect, the defendant was unable to appreciate the wrongfulness of their conduct.

In Texas, to establish the defense of insanity, the defendant must demonstrate by a preponderance of the evidence that they suffered from a severe mental disease or defect that rendered them incapable of comprehending the nature and wrongfulness of their actions at the time of the crime. If successful, the defendant may receive an acquittal by reason of insanity, leading to their commitment to a mental health institution instead of serving a prison sentence. It is important to note that if this defense is successful there may be conditions in place after the court proceedings.

Understanding the Insanity Defense in Texas Criminal Law

The court may impose conditions such as enrollment in a treatment plan, but the defendant’s sentence will not exceed the maximum prison term applicable to the crime they committed. However, depending on the severity of the charge, this could mean the rest of the defendant’s life. It is in your best interest to discuss this time of defense strategy with your defense criminal law attorney to see if this will work in your best interest, as every case is different. The insanity defense is not frequently successful and does not excuse all criminal conduct. The burden of proof is also on the defendant to prove the defense by a preponderance of the evidence, which is a lower standard of proof than the beyond-a-reasonable doubt standard used in Court during a criminal case trial.

Mistake of Fact

In Texas, mistake of fact is a criminal defense that can negate the mens rea, or intent element, of a crime. The defense of mistake of fact is based on the idea that the defendant had a mistaken belief about a material fact that, if true, would have made their conduct lawful. To use the defense of mistake of fact in Texas, the defendant must show that they had a mistaken belief about a material fact, the mistake of fact was reasonable, and the mistake of fact negates the mens rea or intent element of the crime charged.

For example, suppose a person takes an object from someone else’s property, believing it to be their own property. If the defendant can show that they honestly and reasonably believed that the object belonged to them, they may be able to use the defense of mistake of fact to argue that they lacked the intent to commit the crime of theft. It is important to note that depending on the crime committed by the defendant, the defense mistake of fact may not be available and it depends on the case and if this defense is applicable. Additionally, the mistake of fact must be both honest and reasonable. If the mistake was unreasonable, or if the defendant’s mistaken belief was due to their own negligence or recklessness, the defense of mistake of fact may not be available.

Duress

Duress occurs when the plaintiff compels the defendant to commit an action, potentially involving a criminal act like theft or causing harm, against their will. The defendant will have to prove that the plaintiff threatened them to do something against their will, the threat forced the defendant to act in a way they normally would not. That the defendant’s change in behavior happened around the time of the incident, and that the defendant had no way to protect themselves from the threat.

Intoxication

In Texas, intoxication can be a criminal law defense in certain circumstances. The intoxication defense asserts that drugs or alcohol severely impaired the defendant’s mental state at the time of the crime, making them unable to form the necessary intent or mental state for the offense. Texas recognizes two types of intoxication defenses: voluntary and involuntary intoxication.

Voluntary intoxication

In Texas, you cannot use voluntary intoxication as a defense to a crime if you voluntarily choose to become intoxicated. Alcohol or other intoxicants may lower your inhibitions or allow you to do things you normally would not even consider doing. On the other hand, involuntary intoxication can be a defense to a crime in Texas.

Involuntary intoxication

Involuntary intoxication occurs when someone coerces, tricks, or forces a person into consuming drugs or alcohol, or when they unknowingly ingest a substance that leads to intoxication. In such cases, the defendant may use involuntary intoxication as a defense to the charges. If someone gives a person a drink containing drugs or alcohol without their knowledge, or if they force them to consume a substance against their will, it constitutes involuntary intoxication.

For instance, if a person attends a party and someone slips a drug into their drink without their knowledge or consent, and the person then commits a crime while under the influence of that drug, they may be able to use the defense of involuntary intoxication. If an individual is forced at gunpoint to consume alcohol or drugs, resulting in them committing a criminal act while under the influence, they can also assert the defense of involuntary intoxication. In both cases, the defendant would need to show that their intoxication was involuntary and that it prevented them from forming the necessary intent or mental state required for the crime.

Entrapment

This criminal defense can be used in certain cases where the defendant feels like they only committed a crime because law enforcement influenced them to do it, this is called entrapment. To use the defense of entrapment in the state of Texas, a defendant must show that the idea of committing the criminal act originated with the law enforcement officer or their agent. That the law enforcement officer or agent had induced or persuaded the defendant to commit the criminal act. The defendant was not predisposed to commit the crime before the law enforcement officer’s involvement and the defendant had only committed the crime as a result of the law enforcement officer’s actions.

It is important to note that the defense of entrapment is not available if the defendant was already predisposed to commit the crime, even if a law enforcement officer provided an opportunity or encouragement to commit the crime. Additionally, the defendant bears the burden of proving the defense of entrapment by a preponderance of the evidence. If a defendant successfully uses the defense of entrapment in Texas, the charges against him or her may be dismissed or reduced. However, the defense of entrapment is rarely successful in Texas or in other jurisdictions, as courts tend to give law enforcement officers significant leeway in their tactics to investigate and apprehend criminal suspects.

Criminal Defense of Age

The defense of age affecting criminal responsibility in Texas, as outlined in Section 8.07 of the Texas Penal Code, is a statutory defense that is based on the age of the defendant at the time of the offense. If the defendant was under the age of 15 at the time of the offense, there is a presumption that the defendant is not criminally responsible for their actions. This means that the burden is on the prosecution to prove that the defendant had the requisite mental state to be held responsible for the offense. If the defendant was under the age of 15 at the time of the offense, the defense can argue that the defendant did not have the requisite mental state to be held responsible for the offense.

This may include evidence of the defendant’s immaturity, lack of judgment, or inability to understand the consequences of their actions due to their age. This law also prohibits the punishment of death for any offense committed by a defendant under the age of 18. It is important to note that even if the defense of age affecting criminal responsibility is successful, the defendant may still be subject to civil commitments, such as being placed in a mental health facility or juvenile detention center. Additionally, the defendant may still face consequences for their actions, such as being required to participate in counseling or treatment programs to address their behavior.

Need Help? Call Us Now!

Don’t forget that when you or someone you know faces a criminal charge, the Law Office of Bryan Fagan is here to stand by your side and assist in building the best defense case possible. We prioritize your interests and strive to achieve the most favorable outcome for you. Our team will explain all the details of your trial and guide you through the criminal process step by step.

Therefore, do not hesitate to call us if you find yourself or someone you know that is facing criminal charges unsure about the court system. We will work with you to give you the best type of defense that can help you solve your case. It is vital to have someone explain the result of the charge to you and guide you in the best possible way.

At the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, our professional and knowledgeable criminal law attorneys specialize in crafting a defense case tailored to your needs, ensuring the best possible outcome for you. Additionally, we offer consultations at your convenience. You may choose to have your appointment via Zoom, google meet, email, or an in-person appointment; and we will provide you with as much advice and information as possible so you can have the best possible result in your case.

Call us now at (281) 810-9760.

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