You waited all year for your trip to Florida. When spring break finally arrived, everything went as planned - at first. You hopped in the car with a few of your best friends, hit the highway and headed for a week of fun in the sun and time away from your studies at school. What could be better than beach volleyball, catching some rays and all-you-can-eat crab legs buffets, right?
At least, that's what you thought before you wound up in the back of a police car, headed straight for jail on charges of assault. You may have tried to explain to the officer that you merely tried to defend yourself, defend someone else or just ended up in the wrong place at the wrong time. The other party or parties involved gave you no other choice.
Are there any defenses to an assault charge?
Once you realized the officer did not see eye-to-eye with your assessment of the situation, your mind may have switched gears to where to turn for help to rectify a situation that threatened not only your vacation fun, but your freedom as well. Our criminal justice system presumes your innocence, unless proved otherwise beyond a reasonable doubt in court. Typically, you could claim the following defenses:
- Invoking Fifth Amendment Rights: You can refuse to answer questions that might incriminate you by invoking your rights and refusing to speak in accordance with the Fifth Amendment of the Constitution. It's not your job to prove your innocence; rather, it's the prosecutor's job to prove your guilt.
- Self-defense: You can provide evidence to prove that the other party or parties intended to harm you physically, so you acted reasonably to defend yourself against that threat. This type of defense requires you to convince the court that you took necessary and reasonable action to keep yourself safe.
- Under the influence: In the past, some defendants obtained lesser sentences by claiming they were under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time of the incident. Therefore, making coherent choices in the matter that led to criminal charges against them proved impossible. Florida remains one of the few states that still allows this type of defense under certain circumstances.
At some point, the prosecutor could offer you a plea bargain regarding the criminal assault charges filed against you during spring break. That opens up a completely new assortment of problems as to whether you should accept the deal as offered or go with one of the options mentioned above (or some other defense) instead. It's crucial to understand your options fully before making such an important decision that may impact your future for years to come.
A criminal defense attorney will explain every alternative available to you in a particular situation, as well as all possible consequences of each choice. As a personal advocate, an experienced attorney can help weigh the benefits and potential negative repercussions of either pleading guilty or requesting a trial and can offer guidance toward a decision that leads to the best possible outcome.