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Flashcards in Defenses Deck (13):

What are the two categories of defenses?

1. Case-in-Chief Defenses (failure of proof or prima facie case defenses) - defendant attacks the prosecution's case in chief by arguing that the prosecutor has failed to meet its burden of proof on at least one essential element of the crime, such as the mens rea, the actus reus, causation, or concurrence.

2. Affirmative Defenses - defendant admits that the government has met its burden of proof regarding its case in chief, but argues that he or she should be acquitted for some other reason.
a. Justification Defenses - defendant claims he did the right thing or took the most appropriate action under the circumstances (self-defense, defense of another)
b. Excuse Defenses - insanity


What is the burden of proof for asserting a defense?

Defense holds the burden of proof, preponderance of the evidence.


What are the required elements for self defense?

Defendant must have an honest and reasonable belief that:
1. He or she was threatened with an imminent threat of unlawful force (imminence),
2. The force he or she used was necessary to repel the threat (necessity), and
3. The force used was proportionate to the threatened force (proportionality).

Rule: If the plaintiff presents a prima facie case of self defense, the burden is on the prosecution to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant did not act in self defense. (Jenkins - defendant stabbed a man who threatened him and his family outside his trailer home.)


What are the two tests used in different jurisdictions for self defense?

Subjective test - did the person honestly believe there was an imminent threat?

Objective test - would a reasonable person in the defendant's shoes have believed there was an imminent threat?

Depends on jurisdiction.


What is the MPC requirement for self defense?

Subjective requirement - "when the actor believes that such force is immediately necessary."
- Not imminent harm - not focused on the imminence of the harm, but focused on if the force is immediately necessary

Use of deadly force only justifiable if necessary to protect himself against:
- Death, serious bodily injury, kidnapping or sexual intercourse compelled by force or threat

If the belief is reckless or negligent, then the self-defense claim cannot be used in circumstances where recklessness or negligence is a required state of mind (eg: reckless or negligent homicide)

A person must retreat if threatened. No duty to retreat from his dwelling or place of work


When is defense of others allowed?

Common Law: May use force when reasonably believes that 3rd party would be justified in using force:
- Imminent, necessary, and proportional requirements all still applicable.
- Minority position: act-at-peril rule


What is the act at peril rule in defense of others?

When you act to help someone, if that person cannot legally claim self defense, you cannot intervene, even if you have a reasonable belief that it was in defense of others. (Young)

Now the minority rule, most states require a reasonable belief.


When is force in defense of habitation allowed?

May use deadly force, if reasonably believed the force was necessary to prevent imminent, unlawful entry
Some jurisdictions require an intent to commit a felony or cause injury. Some make it higher with a forcible felony or grievous bodily injury


When is force in defense of property allowed?

Deadly force never justified. Non-deadly force is justified if actor reasonably believes it is necessary to prevent imminent, unlawful disposition of property.


What is the general rule in regards to spring guns?

If the person would be justified in taking the life or inflicting the bodily harm with his own hands, then use of a spring gun would be allowed. Person who sets it up runs the risk that the spring gun injures an innocent party, and would be held criminally liable if that happens.



What are the required elements for the defense of duress?

• The defendant acted in response to an imminent threat of death or serious bodily injury to himself or a family member;
• The defendant reasonably believed the threat was genuine; and
• No reasonable opportunity to escape the threatened harm.

MPC - excuses criminal conduct that was:
- Coerced by the use of, or threat to use, unlawful force against the actor's person or the person of another; and
- A person of reasonable firmness in his situation would have been unable to resist.

Broader allowance than the common law rule.
• Threat to use unlawful force - less than death or grevious bodily harm
• Threat against a third party - not self or a family member
• No imminence requirement - although imminence is relevant to whether a reasonable person would have been able to resist
• Allowed for murder.


What is required for the defense of necessity?

- The coercion must come from the physical forces of nature
- Defendant must act in the interest of the general welfare.
- Generally not available for killings. 19 states, including Hawaii, allow a defense of necessity.


What is the insanity defense?

afflicted with a mental disease or defect of such severity that the person did not know the criminal act was wrong.

Excludes voluntary intoxication, withdrawal, character defects, psychosexual disorders, or impulse control disorders