Violent crime, also called a crime of violence, encompasses any criminal activity where the defendant threatens or uses physical force to harm another person. When the defendant carries out the threat and causes harm, the result can be severe injury or even death.
Numerous types of offenses fall under the umbrella of violent crime, including:
- Aggravated assault;
- Various degrees of homicide;
- Gang-related violence;
- Sexual assault;
- DUI Vehicular Homicide.
The presence of a weapon is not necessary for an offense to be classified as violent as long as some form of violent behavior occurred during the crime or while the defendant was committing another crime, like kidnapping.
If you have been accused of a violent crime, it’s advisable to seek the help of a criminal defense lawyer who can provide you with guidance and support.
What Are the Punishments for a Violent Crime?
Violent crimes carry severe punishments for defendants due to their classification as felonies, which can result in harsh legal consequences.
For example, violent crimes like homicide or sexual assault are classified as felonies and can result in a prison sentence of at least one year, with some convictions carrying sentences of up to 5, 10, or more years depending on the severity of the crime.
Less serious violent offenses, like battery, can result in a maximum prison sentence of one year served in a county jail facility. Additionally, criminal fines are a potential consequence for both misdemeanor and felony charges, with felony charges carrying higher fines.
Aggravating factors can lead to more serious legal penalties for misdemeanor offenses. For example, battery is typically a misdemeanor. However, it can be elevated to a felony charge if it involves serious bodily harm, the use of a weapon, or if the victim is a child, a pregnant woman, or a police officer.
Are There Any Defenses for Violent Crime?
Defendants facing charges for violent crimes have several defenses available to them, including self-defense, intoxication, and mistake of fact.
Self-defense is a legal defense that justifies the use of force by an individual against another person who is believed to be threatening them with imminent harm or violence. It is a common defense in cases involving an altercation or physical conflict between two parties.
To claim self-defense, the defendant must show that their use of force was necessary to protect themselves from harm and that the force used was proportional to the threat faced. In other words, they must demonstrate that their response was reasonable under the circumstances.
Having a lawyer in self-defense cases is crucial as they can help determine who should be held responsible for any resulting injuries. This is important because, in some cases, the person who initiated the altercation or threatened violence may have forfeited their right to claim self-defense.
For example, if someone starts a fight with another person and that person responds with force in self-defense, the person who started the fight may not be able to claim self-defense. In this scenario, the person who responded in self-defense may have a stronger claim to it.
A lawyer can also help gather evidence to support the defendant’s self-defense claim, such as witness statements, medical records, and police reports. They can also present a convincing argument to the judge or jury that the defendant’s use of force was justified under the circumstances.
Is Insanity a Defense to Violent Crime?
Insanity can be a defense to a violent crime in certain circumstances. In general, the defense of insanity asserts that the defendant did not have the mental capacity to understand the nature and consequences of their actions when they committed the crime.
To use the insanity defense successfully, the defendant typically needs to demonstrate that they had a severe mental illness at the time of the crime, which impaired their ability to understand the wrongfulness of their actions.
In most states, the defendant has the burden of proving insanity by clear and convincing evidence, which is a higher standard of proof than the usual burden of proof in criminal cases, which is beyond a reasonable doubt. However, it’s worth noting that the insanity defense is difficult to prove and is not successful in the majority of cases. Additionally, even if the defendant successfully proves insanity, they may still be subject to institutionalization or other forms of treatment.
Aside from self-defense and insanity, a defendant can use several other legal defenses in response to a violent crime charge.
Here are some examples:
- Duress: Duress is a defense that can be used when someone is forced to commit a crime under the threat of harm. For instance, if a person is threatened with violence if they do not commit a robbery, they may be able to use duress as a defense.
- Necessity: Necessity is a defense that can be used when a person commits a crime to prevent greater harm. For example, if someone breaks into a house to rescue someone trapped inside, they may be able to use the defense of necessity.
- Consent: Consent is a defense that can be used in cases where the victim willingly participated in an activity that resulted in harm. For example, if two people engage in a consensual fight and one person is injured, the defendant may be able to use consent as a defense.
- Alibi: An alibi defense involves proving that the defendant was not present at the scene of the crime when it was committed. An alibi defense can be done through the use of witnesses, video footage, or other evidence that places the defendant elsewhere at the time of the crime.
- Intoxication: Intoxication can be used as a defense in cases where the defendant was under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time of the crime and did not have the mental capacity to form the necessary intent to commit the crime.
In addition, a lawyer can be helpful if a defendant is using an affirmative defense, which seeks to negate an element of the crime. Suppose a defendant is charged with robbery, but the prosecutor cannot prove that the defendant was the perpetrator or used force to steal from the victim. In that case, the defendant may not be held liable for robbery.
Defenses available to defendants will depend on the criminal statutes of their state and the specific facts of each case. While not all defenses can completely absolve a defendant of charges, they may help to reduce the sentence or amount of fines.
Do I Need to Hire a Lawyer for Help with Violent Crime Charges?
As previously mentioned, being charged with a violent crime can result in severe legal consequences. Therefore, if you are facing charges for a crime of violence, it’s advisable to seek the assistance of a local criminal defense attorney immediately.
An experienced criminal defense attorney can provide valuable guidance regarding the relevant laws in your area and the potential punishments you may face. They can also assist you in preparing your case, identifying possible defenses that could reduce your charges, and representing you during court proceedings.
In addition, if you decide to enter into a plea bargain, an attorney can explain the process and any associated consequences, as well as represent you during discussions with the prosecutors.
Overall, having an attorney by your side can greatly improve your chances of receiving a favorable outcome in your case.