Price Law Firm, P.A.
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What Defenses May Be Available For Crimes Committed In South Carolina?

blog-post-image.jpgBeing charged with a crime is a serious matter but it's important to remember - an allegation is not yet a guilty verdict. But allegations can turn into being found guilty. And the risk is greater if you're unprepared and not working closely with a professional attorney knowledgeable and experienced in the defense types to criminal charges.

These are common questions our lawyers have heard being asked in types of defense to a crime. If you have any questions about these types of defense to a criminal charge, please contact us at our Greenville office at 864-501-9627.

What Is Self-Defense (Also Called Defense Of Self Or Others)?

It's important to note that self-defense can occur anywhere, but there are special circumstances surrounding when such a defense occurs in a person's home, vehicle or place of business. As there are special protections to a person who defends themselves under the "stand your ground" defense, which include self-defense in a person's home, vehicle and place of business. But this can also extend to another person's home, vehicle and place of business, if the defendant was invited by the owner to be there.

But in all cases of self-defense, the defendant is making that claim that they responded with violence to meet proportional violence occurring against themselves or others.

This act of protecting oneself or others from violence is grounded in South Carolina law under the Protection of Persons and Property ActProtection of Persons and Property Act. In South Carolina, the Act has extended the common law castle doctrine so that a person's home (or castle) can include their vehicle and their place of business.

Persons have a right to protect themselves, their families and others from great bodily injury by intruders and attackers, and they should act accordingly without fear of prosecution or civil action.

The Act goes on to identify "great bodily injury", "residence", "dwelling", "vehicle" and other definitions crucial to defining the legal boundaries in which one can take action under the Protection of Persons and Property Act. These legal definitions are what can be carefully scrutinized in court, under any proceeding in which a defense of self or others is used against criminal charges.

Working closely with an experienced attorney who has worked on both prosecution and defense provides you a legal team knowledgeable and experienced with both playbooks in the courtroom.

What Is Abandonment And Withdrawal In Criminal Law?

The abandonment and withdrawal defense in a criminal charge is an affirmative defense. In that, it falls on the defendant to establish that they abandoned and withdrew from the act of the crime prior to it being performed. This defense can be used under most cases if there was only early involvement in the crime, but the defendant removed themselves far before the crime was committed. Though, if there were other persons involved in the crime, and if they have had contact with any of these persons after the act of the crime, the defendant will not be able to use this defense. Even if they did not participate in the crime.

Considerations weighed positively for the defendant include if the defendant made an effort to contact police or other authorities prior to the crime. And if that information was helpful.

What Is An Impossibility Defense?

An impossibility defense is not a common defense. But if the defendant has clear reason and evidence as to why they could not have committed the crime, the defense may possibly be used. For example, a person pulling the trigger of an unloaded gun pointed at another person. While the action was taken, the fact that the gun was not loaded made it an impossibility that the targeted person could be shot under the circumstance.

The example is simplified and such cases usually do not arise in the first place, but there may be complex criminal defense cases in which an impossibility defense can be used.

What Is The Affirmative Criminal Defense?

The affirmative criminal defense is when the defendant can prove a fact or facts presented to the court, which otherwise negates the legal ramifications of the defendant's criminal charge. This defense actually encapsulates several more specific criminal charge defense types, including defense of self or others, and insanity defense.

What Is The Insanity Defense?

The insanity defense claims that a defendant cannot be held responsible for a crime they committed because at the time they could not mentally distinguish between right and wrong due to being insane.

This is sometimes also referred to as mental disorder defense, in that the defendant needs to prove that they had a psychiatric disorder (as defined by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders), which will excuse them from being criminally prosecuted for the crime.

The insanity defense usually involves several mental health medical experts who are responsible for determining if the defendant was mentally unable to meet the M'Naghten Rule used by South Carolina in insanity defenses.

Using an insanity defense is far more successful if there is already a well-documented history of psychiatric disorder. If no such history exists prior to the crime being committed, this will make success of this defense less likely, however; regardless of previous history, such defenses are often weighed carefully against whether or not the defendant could distinguish between right and wrong during the criminal act. As such, a person may be able to use this defense if claiming they experienced temporary insanity.

No matter in what way, defendants using an insanity defense should be prepared to undergo psychiatric examination, and that such results would be presented in court.

In South Carolina, a successful insanity defense can result in the defendant being found guilty but mentally ill or not guilty by reason of insanity. Either outcome is preferred over a guilty verdict.

What Is The Castle Doctrine Defense?

The castle doctrine defense is a widely and aggressively used criminal defense across nearly all states in the U.S., with the exceptions of D.C., Nebraska, New Mexico, South Dakota, Vermont, and Puerto Rico that invoke no castle doctrine law or greatly reduced versions of the law.

In South Carolina, the castle doctrine has been codified in common law by the General Assembly under the "Protection of Persons and Property Act." More information about this Act can be read above in the section of "What Is Self-Defense (Also Called Defense Of Self Or Others)?."

What Is An Accidental Defense?

An accident defense claims that a crime committed was not intentional but the result of an accident, in which the defendant did not have control over.

There are elements that played a crucial role in the crime that was committed. For example, if a tree on your property is hit by lightning and falls, resulting in the death of a person not on your property. You could claim an accident defense, in that you did not intentionally mean to kill that person with your property.

What Is An Alibi Defense?

An alibi defense is wholly different from the other types of defense on this list as it presumes that the defendant is entirely innocent, based on the fact that they were not physically present at the time and location of the criminal act. Such an assertion is supported by a witness who can testify, or digital records like phone, GPS, keycards, video, audio and other electronic records. This collective evidence will support your alibi, in defense that you were not present, in the location and time, when the crime took place. It's important to note that an alibi defense means that it falls on the defendant to prove that they are innocent. This is often referred to as the "burden of proof." This is also a type of defense that has to be established and reported to the court prior to court proceedings.

What Is The Duress Defense?

A duress defense claims that the defendant only committed a crime because they were themselves in danger either through existing harm or threat of harm. Furthermore, that they could not see any clear path to escape the threat. Also known as a "reasonable opportunity to escape". And that otherwise they would not have committed such a crime.

A duress defense is another type of affirmative defense. Like the alibi defense, and other affirmative defenses, a duress defense takes on the burden of proof. It will be on the defendant to prove their innocence. A jury may be placed with determining if the defendant truly did or did not have a reasonable opportunity to escape.

The severity of the crime and what role the defendant had in placing themselves in harm or threat can also be very important in a duress defense. Talk with your attorney on these matters if using a duress defense.

What Is The Stand Your Ground Defense?

A stand your ground defense is used when a person is in their home, vehicle or place of business (or invited to these places by the owner).

And is discussed above in the section.

What Is The Intoxication Defense?

An intoxication defense is similar to the insanity defense, in that the defendant is claiming they were in a state that left them unable to determine that their actions were wrong. It is entirely different; however, in that being intoxicated is not a mental disorder. It is a condition of loss of mental faculties as the result of an external agent, as opposed to psychiatric disorders that result from internal abnormal neurological processes of the human body.

An intoxication defense is most often used under involuntary intoxication, where the defendant consumed alcohol or a chemical substance without their knowledge. For example, a person may have had their drink at a party "spiked" with a drug that they then unknowingly digested. Resulting in their intoxication, during which time the criminal act took place.

Involuntary intoxication may go as far as covering conditions of severe allergic reaction or side effects to doctor prescribed medication. It's best to speak with an attorney on all the details of any foreign agents introduced into your body, natural or unnatural, that occurred prior to committing the criminal act.

Under most circumstances, voluntary consumption of alcohol or drugs is not a defense in South Carolina. However, insanity caused by use of drugs or intoxication may be a defense where insanity is permanent and destroys the defendant's ability to know right from wrong.

What Is The Entrapment Defense?

An entrapment defense is used when a defendant claims that police authorities coerced or induced that person into committing a crime, in which they would not have otherwise.

Police authorities that offer an opportunity to commit a crime are not seen as entrapping someone. Courts expect that law-abiding citizens regularly use good judgment in not committing crimes on a daily basis as opportunity can present itself in several forms.

Entrapment is seen as more extreme behavior by police authorities to coerce or induce a person into committing a crime, like threatening that person with harm or unjust punishment. An experienced attorney would know what other behaviors may be deemed by the court as entrapment, like fraud, harassment or sexual advancements.

What Is Not A Type Of Defense To A Criminal Charge?

A person convinced you to perform a crime you did not initially intend to commit, and without violence or threat of harm to you or another person. This requires that the defendant and authorities in question had interaction prior to the crime being committed.

Anyone charged with a crime, misdemeanor or felony, should contact a professional criminal law attorney, experienced in the full spectrum of types of defenses of a crime. An experienced attorney with years in prosecution, like James Hardy Price IV, who formerly served for five years as an assistant solicitor in the 13th Circuit Solicitor's Office, or Powers Price, experienced in criminal defense as a contract public defender in State Court and as a defense attorney in Federal Court, or James H. "Chip" Price, III, who has been trying criminal cases since 1975. 

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  • South Carolina Bar
  • Super Lawyers
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  • NACDL- National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers
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Price Law Firm, P.A.
644 East Washington Street
Greenville, SC 29601

Phone: 864-501-9627
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