In the hierarchy of violent criminal offenses, there’s a little question that murder sits very close to the top. When you or someone you love winds up facing murder charges in Tennessee, creating a criminal defense strategy may be the only thing standing between the person accused and many years of incarceration.

The situation leading to the death of someone else may not actually warrant murder charges. For some people, manslaughter or other accidental death charges would be more appropriate. In other cases, the individual charged may not have committed any crime at all.

Defense strategies will vary depending on your circumstances. In some cases, people can prove that they weren’t even present at the time the crime happened. However, if the person facing the charges was present and was involved in the situation that resulted in the death of someone else, an affirmative defense may be the best way to handle those pending charges.

What is an affirmative defense?

In a traditional criminal defense strategy, an individual facing charges and their attorney will try to create doubts about the prosecutor’s narrative of the events. From proving that the defendant wasn’t present at the time of the crime to raising questions about the timeline or the chain of custody for the evidence used in the trial, there are many strategies that can help someone create a reasonable doubt with a jury and protect a person accused of murder from conviction.

When someone was present at the time of a crime, some of those defense options become less viable. Thankfully, an affirmative defense can potentially help those who were present and did play a role in a situation that resulted in the death of another. An affirmative defense concedes that an individual was present or performed the actions alleged by the prosecution.

However, the point of an affirmative defense is to establish that the actions taken were not actually criminal. In a murder trial, for example, an affirmative defense strategy could involve claims of self-defense or the defense of another person. Tennessee also allows the use of lethal force in an attempt to defend the personal property of yourself or someone else.

How do you build an affirmative defense?

As with any other form of criminal defense, an affirmative defense strategy involves analyzing the evidence the state has against the defendant and building a new narrative that supports the claim of self-defense or taking action to produce less harm.

Duress is another option for an affirmative defense. If you acted violently against one individual because someone else was threatening your life or holding someone hostage, the duress of that situation would reduce your legal culpability for the actions taken.

The first step in any defense strategy is finding out what evidence the state has and exploring the situation to provide an alternative explanation for why the situation unfolded the way that it did.