Aggravated assault, murder, assault with a deadly weapon, and other violent crimes are usually spontaneous combustion offenses. Like Spontaneous Human Combustion, these offenses often happen without warning when an argument suddenly turns violent. Generally, like SHC, alcohol is involved as well.
The offense may occur in a heartbeat. but the defenses require lots of homework. A diligent St. Paul criminal defense lawyer must review all the facts in the case, especially the ones the prosecutor does not want to talk about. Your attorney must also review the most current criminal law and find technical foundations to support these defenses.
In all Ramsey County criminal cases, prosecutors must overcome the presumption of innocence and establish guilt beyond any reasonable doubt. That’s basically like moving a football from your own 1-yard-line to the opponent’s goal line.
By design, reasonable doubt has no central definition in Minnesota law. It’s usually up to a jury to define for themselves what this phrase means. But generally, beyond a reasonable doubt is evidence of such overwhelming character that there is no realistic way the defendant could be not guilty.
Many times, eyewitness testimony is shaky. As mentioned, alcohol usually plays a part in violent crime offenses. Typically, the defendant, the alleged victim, and the witnesses were all under the influence of alcohol, at least to some extent. Scientifically, people who drink have a hard time transferring short-term memories to long-term storage. So, when asked to recall an event, they often are unable to reconstruct it, at least in any convincing way.
Furthermore, eyewitness bias is very common. Many eyewitnesses were defendants in the case before prosecutors offered them deals, or even immunity, in exchange for testimony. That bias does not mean that the witness is lying. However, it does mean the Ramsey County jury should take the eyewitness’ testimony with a grain of salt.
Finally, many prosecutors like to use CSI-type evidence, like tire tread molds and shoeprints, to tie a defendant to a violent crime. Other than fingerprints, ballistics, and DNA evidence, such “scientific” stuff has very little basis. If a St. Paul criminal defense lawyer presses this point, prosecutors often cannot offer any foundation for this evidence. If there is no foundation, it is usually not admissible.
Generally, voluntary intoxication is not a defense to criminal activity. For example, alcohol use is not a defense to DUI. That’s just silly to think about. For that matter, alcohol addiction is not a defense to DUI either. Status is hardly ever a defense to conduct.
But DUI, like most criminal offenses, is a general intent crime. The defendant only must intend the conduct. But many violent crimes are specific intent crimes. The defendant must intend both the conduct and the result.
The mens rea (criminal intent) difference between assault and aggravated assault is a good illustration. Assault, or battery, is a general intent crime. Intent to injure is the only mental requirement. But aggravated assault requires more. The defendant must intend both the conduct (hitting the victim) and the result (seriously injuring the victim).
Intoxicated people cannot take that logical step. As mentioned, alcohol impairs brain function. So, if a defendant was drunk, prosecutors could convict him of assault, but not of aggravated assault.
Typically, there is no direct evidence of alcohol impairment in these cases. So, a St. Paul criminal defense lawyer can use circumstantial evidence to prove intoxication, such as:
The defendant has the burden of proof in this area, because lack of intent is an affirmative defense. That burden of proof is usually a preponderance of the evidence (more likely than not). That’s a lower standard of proof.
Minnesota is not a stand-your-ground state. But it is a castle doctrine state (as in “a man’s home is his castle”). So, if the incident occurred at the defendant’s home, it is easier for a St. Paul criminal defense lawyer to establish self-defense. For example, if you are threatened in your home, you have no duty to retreat. You may meet force with force.
The amount of force must be proportional, and must also be objectively reasonable. These same rules apply in both castle doctrine situations and offenses which occur on someone else’s property.
Sometimes, the defendant’s use of force is only subjectively reasonable. For example, Mike may think that Jim had a gun, but in reality, he just had a water pistol. In that case, Jim might be able to claim imperfect self-defense. This doctrine is not a defense to the charge, but it does reduce the penalty.
Other defenses may be available as well. These defenses can either defeat the charges in court or give your St. Paul criminal defense lawyer additional leverage during pretrial settlement negotiations.
It is not easy for prosecutors to obtain convictions in violent crimes cases. For a free consultation with an experienced St. Paul criminal defense lawyer, go online now, call us at (651) 998-7634, or stop by 287 6th St E, Suite 20, St Paul, MN 55101.