Facing criminal charges can leave you feeling like the whole world is against you. Some people feel so disempowered and downtrodden by pending criminal charges that they wind up making the mistake of pleading guilty to a crime they did not commit.

Pending charges can inspire fear in even the bravest person, but that doesn’t mean that someone should succumb to that fear. Exploring tactics used in court as part of a criminal defense can help you feel empowered and determine what options you may have for proving your innocence.

Challenge the validity of evidence

Law enforcement officers will often do questionable things in order to gather evidence. Police officers can and do lie to people while questioning them or in order to prompt them into giving a DNA sample. Sometimes, officers will actually break the law, possibly by entering your property without permission or a warrant.

When officers illegally gather evidence, you may be able to challenge that evidence in court. However, the way that police gather the evidence isn’t the only issue that can impact the validity of the state’s evidence. Contamination at the crime lab, issues with chain of custody for individual pieces of evidence and other problems can lead to the courts throwing out some or all of the evidence against you.

Prove that you weren’t there or undermine witness credibility

Perhaps the simplest way to demonstrate your innocence of a specific criminal charge is to establish a valid alibi. Whether police chose not to believe your alibi or if the other party wasn’t willing to speak to police and will only speak to the courts, you may be able to establish that you were actually nowhere near the location of the crime at the time that it occurred.

Even if you don’t have an alibi, if all the prosecutors have is an eyewitness statement tying you to a location or a criminal act, undermining the credibility of eyewitness testimony can be part of your defense strategy. You don’t need to attack the individual offering in the testimony. Instead, testimony from an expert about how unreliable eyewitness evidence actually is could be enough to create a reasonable doubt in the minds of jurors.

Consider an affirmative defense

Sometimes, police and prosecutors charge you with a crime when your action was not criminal. Even if you did what they claim you did, and affirmative defense could establish that you were within your legal rights to do certain things. Self-defense is one very common form of affirmative defense strategy.

In a self-defense claim, the defendant agrees that they did what the prosecutor alleges they did, but the defendant maintains they did so in order to protect themselves or others. Circumstances including the presence of a weapon or someone illegally entering your home can result in self-defense claims.