Criminal Defense

The Four Categories of Criminal Defense

When it comes to criminal defense, there are many different ways an attorney can defend a client, but no matter the strategy, it generally falls into one of four categories.

Anyone involved in the legal system, both defendants and attorneys, should be aware of them. Knowledge is power, and learning how attorneys do their jobs can help you work together. Ultimately, defending yourself against criminal allegations should be a team effort.

Citizens deserve a strong understanding of the complexity of our justice system. Having this information is helpful if you find yourself on the wrong side of the law or have a loved one facing criminal charges.

This article covers what each category entails, helping you make informed decisions in a criminal case.


Attorneys use justification when someone acts in self-defense, defense of their property, or defense of others.

Another example of justification is committing a crime to prevent greater harm. For instance, you may be forced to break into a locked location to escape danger.

This defense must be based on reasonable beliefs and fears, and your response must be proportionate to the threat at hand. For example, you cannot savagely beat someone who threatens to punch you. Also, using the break-in example above, you couldn’t steal a bunch of items or burn the place down after entering.


This defense admits that the crime occurred, but it argues that the offender is not necessarily culpable. Essentially, it argues that an underlying condition or outside circumstance caused the crime.

Common examples of excuse defenses include:

  • Duress
  • Mistake
  • Insanity
  • Entrapment
  • Diminished capacity

The excuse defense often attempts to lower charges or decrease a sentence, not get the defendant off completely. These defenses often result in consequences, but when the strategy works, those consequences are much lighter than they would have been otherwise.


Alibi is one of the most common categories of criminal defense. It attempts to prove that the accused person was not present at the scene of the crime.

Some ways you can establish an alibi include:

  • Witnesses
  • GPS records
  • Traffic cam footage
  • Surveillance footage
  • Electronic communications
  • Receipts that clearly mark a time and place
  • Cellphone records that can pinpoint your location

Procedural Defense

Procedural defense, put simply, focuses on the authorities. It questions how a suspect was arrested and evidence was gathered.

This defense aims to identify any procedural errors. If the police failed to do their job properly, the entire case can be thrown out, even when someone is clearly guilty of a crime.

Examples of incorrect procedure include:

  • Entrapment
  • Unnecessary force
  • Illegal search seizure
  • Witness intimidation
  • Illegal or forced confession
  • Violation of Miranda rights

A procedural defense can even help after a trial is over. Your attorney can help you appeal a conviction if the original court decision was improper. Examples include jury misconduct, failure to provide a speedy trial, failure to disclose exculpatory evidence, violations of a defendant’s constitutional rights, etc.

If you need a good defense against criminal allegations, Nelson, Taylor & Associates, PLLC is here to help. For a free consultation, call our team at (801) 901-7046 or contact us online.