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Defense Strategies for Violent Crimes

May 7, 2021

Violent crimes can carry heavy sentences that can follow someone for the rest of their life. A felony criminal conviction can limit your rights to get a job, own a gun, and even make it harder to find a place to live. Defense strategies for violent crimes can help protect those charged with:

Before pleading guilty to a violent crime, make sure you talk to an experienced Virginia criminal attorney about how to defend your case. Contact Bryan J. Jones, LLC in Charlottesville today.

Do Not Rely on The Prosecutor's Version of What Happened

Many innocent people plead guilty to a crime based on the police and prosecutor's version of what happened. The DA may make it seem like they have enough evidence to get a guilty verdict and you can only help your case by pleading guilty. However, your defense may be stronger than you realize. If even one element of the crime is not proven, the prosecutor's case may fall apart.

The Prosecutor Has the Burden to Prove All Elements of The Offense

The prosecutor has the burden of proof in a criminal case. You do not have to prove you are innocent. It is up to the state to prove you are guilty. To prove you are guilty, the prosecutor has to prove each element of the offense beyond a reasonable doubt. If there is a little bit of doubt as to only one element of the crime, you should be found not guilty.

Stay Silent and Talk to An Attorney

The Constitution gives you the right to an attorney in a criminal prosecution. You also have the right to remain silent when taken into police custody. Your first instinct may be to defend yourself by saying what happened. Unfortunately, the police may twist your words to make you appear guilty.

Staying silent and asking for an attorney is not a sign that you did anything wrong. Instead, it is a sign that you are exercising your constitutional rights in this country and you will not be taken advantage of by the police.

It is important to contact your attorney as soon as you are aware of any allegations or investigation against you. You may have the right to have a lawyer represent you in a police interrogation and any hearings. The sooner you act, the sooner you will have a defender of your rights to stand by your side through this difficult time.

Eyewitness Testimony Is Not so Reliable

Many violent crime cases rely on eyewitness testimony. Unfortunately for many people who were falsely convicted of a crime they did not commit, eyewitness testimony is not that reliable. Even scientific research indicates there are a number of problems with the reliability of eyewitness testimony, including:

  • Stress at the scene of the crime,

  • Weapons distracting the witness from looking at the suspect,

  • Racial disparity,

  • Rushed lineup or photo identification,

  • Lack of distinctive characteristics of the suspect, or

  • Events occurred far away or at night.

Unlawful Search or Seizure

You have a constitutional right against unlawful search and seizure. Unfortunately, the police may violate your constitutional rights to try and gather evidence. When the police unlawfully search your property, vehicle, home, or conduct a search on your body, they should not be able to use any of the evidence they uncover. Your attorney can file a motion to suppress the use of any illegally obtained evidence.

Consent as A Defense to Assault or Battery

Consent may be a defense to some violent crimes, including assault and battery. For example, if two people both step outside of a bar to fight, they may both be consenting to a possible assault. People engaging in a mutual fight may not later be able to claim they were a victim of battery. However, escalating a fight may break the consent protection. For example, pulling a knife during a fist fight may not be protected by consent.


Self-defense is a type of “affirmative defense.” In an affirmative defense, the accused admits to assaulting or injuring another but they did so based on a justified reason. Affirmative defenses in Virginia can include self-defense, defense of others, or in some cases, defense of property.

Self-defense may be a defense strategy for many violent crimes, including murder, manslaughter, or aggravated assault. In order to claim self-defense, the defendant generally needs to show:

  1. The defendant was without fault in provoking or bringing on the fight;

  2. The defendant reasonably feared, under the circumstances as they appeared to him, that he was in imminent danger of harm; and

  3. The defendant used no more force, under the circumstances as they appeared to him, than was reasonably necessary to protect himself from the perceived harm,

Defense of Others

Defense of others may be another affirmative defense where the defendant acted to protect another person. Generally, defense of others means that the defendant can step into the shoes of the person they reasonably believed to be in imminent danger of harm.

Even if the defendant was mistaken, a defense of others claim may still be valid. For example, the defendant walks around the corner and sees a man slapping a woman who is crying. The defendant runs over and tackles the man. A group of students come out of the bushes and say they were shooting a student movie. The defendant may still be able to claim an affirmative defense if the defendant reasonably believed the woman was in imminent danger of harm under the circumstances.

Defense of Property

Violence may also be justified in defense of dwelling or defense of other property. Deadly force can sometimes be justified in defense of a home or dwelling but it is generally not available in defense of other property.

Experienced Violent Crime Defense Attorney in Charlottesville, VA

If you have been charged with a violent crime in Virginia, you need to contact a smart, experienced criminal defense attorney today. Bryan J. Jones is committed to his clients and puts forth defense strategies that work. Contact his office in Charlottesville to begin building your defense.