The best defense to a crime is the most complete defense, negating the defendant’s responsibility for committing the crime.
Defenses vary in their ability to completely bar prosecution. Most defenses encountered in court are factual in nature. Others attempt to excuse the defendant’s actions, not directly impacting the actual facts (or guilt or innocence) of the alleged crime. Any defenses that may apply to a defendant’s case must be explored with the defendant. North Carolina’s Pattern Jury Instructions are excellent resources when exploring whether specific defenses apply to a defendant’s case.
The defense must give the prosecution notice of the intent to use certain defenses. These include alibi, duress, entrapment, insanity, mental infirmity, diminished capacity, self-defense, accident, automatism, involuntary intoxication, and voluntary intoxication. The notice must be given within 20 working days after the trial date is set. Specifics are required if offering notice for duress, entrapment, insanity, automatism or involuntary intoxication. The notice itself is inadmissible against the defendant.
In part two, we will explore these individual defenses.