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Affirmative defenses to criminal accusations

On Behalf of | Dec 13, 2023 | Criminal Justice System

According to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, the state had over 505,000 crimes committed from January 1 to December 4, 2023. Facing criminal charges can be a daunting experience.

Affirmative defenses offer individuals the opportunity to present evidence that could excuse or justify their actions. There are various options under the state law for such claims.


If an individual reasonably believes that the use of force is necessary to protect themselves or others from imminent harm, they may invoke self-defense. However, this is typically not straightforward. The actions of the person must be proportional to the perceived threat. There also has to be reasonableness of the belief that such force was necessary.

Voluntary intoxication

Voluntary intoxication, while not a complete defense, can be a mitigating factor in certain cases. If an individual was involuntarily intoxicated or did not have the capacity to understand the consequences of their actions, it may be an affirmative defense.

Mistake of fact

Mistake of fact is a defense that comes into play when an individual reasonably believes certain facts that, if true, would justify their actions. For example, if someone mistakenly believes they are defending themselves from an immediate threat, this mistake of fact may be a defense.


If an individual can demonstrate that the alleged victim gave voluntary and knowing consent to the actions in question, it may be a valid defense in certain cases. For example, a person may defend against a theft charge by saying the alleged victim gave permission to take the item in question.

It is important to note that affirmative defenses require careful consideration of the specific circumstances surrounding the alleged criminal activity. These defenses are not one-size-fits-all solutions, and their applicability depends on the details of each case.

State Bar of Georgia
TBA | Tennessee Bar Association
CBA | Chattanooga Bar Association

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