Look – no one wants to face criminal charges, and you have every right to defend yourself. But trying to tell your side of things is not easy on your own. In fact, navigating the legal system alone can cause even more harm. So, no matter if you’re arrested for drugs, DUI, theft, or violence, a skilled defense attorney is essential.

Here, Philadelphia attorney Michael Fienman shares some of the most effective criminal defense strategies and the tactics used to fight charges. Michael Fienman has been practicing in and around Philadelphia since 2010. He has a successful track record, securing dismissals, reductions, and not-guilty jury verdicts in courts throughout Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

Remember, you are innocent until proven guilty. Let’s explore what goes into an effective defense strategy, some potential options, and how they can be applied by a skilled defense attorney.

Building Your Defense Strategy

Criminal defense strategies are the methods, arguments, and tactics used to advocate for the accused. These approaches, supported by evidence, focus on challenging the case, mitigating the harm of a conviction, and ensuring the rights of the accused are protected.

A defense usually grows out of a defendant’s version of the events. With help from an attorney, they are intended to bring about the most favorable outcome. This could be an acceptable plea, a lesser sentence, a dismissal, or an acquittal.

Factors to Consider in a Defense Strategy

Building a defense in a criminal case starts with reviewing the facts, gathering evidence, and understanding legal standards and police procedures. Then, you’ll want to develop a compelling narrative that balances aggressive representation while staying flexible based on the specifics.

When devising your defense, several considerations come into play:

  • The Nature and Severity of the Charges
  • The Strength of the Evidence
  • Witness Credibility
  • Your Prior Record (If Any)
  • Were Your Rights Violated
  • Legal Precedent
  • Are Plea Negotiations Possible
  • Community Attitude/ Local Jurisdiction Issues
  • Are there Mitigating or Aggravating Factors

Remember, every case is unique. The best criminal defense attorneys will weigh all the relevant factors to develop a case strategy most likely to succeed.

The Top Defenses to Criminal Charges

Whether you’re facing charges or simply seeking insight, some of the most effective defenses that attorneys frequently utilize include:

The Alibi Defense

This involves proving that you were not at the crime scene when it occurred. For instance, evidence like surveillance footage or eyewitness testimony that places you in a different location can be pivotal.

Presenting an alibi defense is not just about proving you were elsewhere. Attorneys must corroborate alibis with tangible evidence – like electronic records or GPS data – and credible witnesses. The key is establishing a timeline that irrefutably conflicts with the prosecution’s allegations.


In some assaults or homicides, a self-defense strategy may be appropriate. This requires demonstrating that you reasonably believed in an imminent threat and used reasonable force in response. For example, if you were attacked and responded in a manner proportionate to the danger, you could argue self-defense.

Mental Health Issues

Sometimes referred to as pleading insanity, this involves admitting that you committed the act in question but asserting that you were not responsible due to mental impairment. But pleading insanity is rare and hard to prove legally.

That said, mental difficulties can be a mitigating factor in criminal matters. For example, when a client was charged with assaulting a server, attorney Fienman convinced the DA that mental health issues were involved. This resulted in a dismissal and eventual expungement if the client sought mental health treatment.

Constitutional Violations

Identifying constitutional violations, such as illegal searches or coerced confessions, is a fundamental defense strategy. These violations happen more often than you expect, especially during traffic stops, and arguments often hinge on intricate legal precedents and require attorneys to be adept at constitutional law.

Successfully arguing these points can exclude key evidence, significantly impacting the case’s outcome.

Read about how attorney Fienman utilized this defense to get several firearm and drug charges dismissed after police searched a room that his client didn’t occupy.

Mistaken Identity

This argues that you have been wrongly identified as the perpetrator of a crime. Suppose you fit the description of someone breaking into cars and being stopped by the police. To effectively argue your innocence, a lawyer may have to challenge the reliability of eyewitness testimony or present evidence that suggests someone else committed the crime.

But even with a lawyer’s help, proving that you’re the victim of mistaken identity is not a cakewalk. In 2016, attorney Fienman represented a man accused of hit and run who a witness identified. Despite clear inconsistencies, the client was convicted and only vindicated after Mike appealed and won.

Lack of Criminal Intent

Many crimes require specific intent. Therefore, proving that you had no intention to deceive can be a successful defense in cases of alleged fraud. Defense attorneys often unravel complex details to demonstrate the absence of criminal intent, emphasizing the difference between a poor decision and illegal conduct.

Not long ago, attorney Fienman assisted a client who was being investigated for human trafficking. However, the man avoided charges by explaining the situation and demonstrating a clear lack of criminal intent. Read about the case here.

Challenge the Elements

To convict you of certain crimes, the government must establish specific criteria. For example, in felony drug cases, you must have a certain amount of a controlled substance in your possession. As a result, your strategy may involve scrutinizing the case for weaknesses or inconsistencies.

Your defense lawyer might challenge the credibility of the evidence, such as the way the drugs were collected or handled. This could include questioning the custody chain and highlighting gaps because irregularities might suggest tampering or mishandling. If your attorney can argue that the amounts involved are potentially incorrect, it can result in a reduction or dismissal.

Fienman challenged the elements to reduce multiple charges.

Highlight Procedural Errors

Defense attorneys like Mike Fienman often scrutinize the actions of the police and prosecutors for procedural mistakes or violations that may have led to your charges. This could involve emphasizing instances where police failed to follow proper protocol during the arrest or investigation.

For example, if the police conducted a DUI test, but the machine was not calibrated correctly, you may have been wrongly arrested. Similarly, if you’re accused of assault, but the prosecutor misinterpreted the legal statute that applies to your case, you could unnecessarily face a felony rather than a less severe misdemeanor.

If evidence was collected without adhering to the proper procedures or charges are based on a legal error, the evidence may be deemed inadmissible, and charges could be dismissed.

Fienman pointed out police errors to get a DUI dismissed.

Establish Reasonable Doubt

In criminal cases, the prosecution bears the burden of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Based on the details, a defense attorney may suggest a strategy that creates reasonable doubt about one or more elements of the crime.

A reasonable doubt defense can emphasize the insufficiency of the state’s case against you by effectively challenging the evidence and presenting counterarguments. This strategy is frequently effective in trials where the prosecution must present its case. For instance, in a theft case, if there is a lack of direct evidence linking you to the crime, the defense may stress this fact, suggest alternate explanations that instill doubt, and argue that the prosecution has not met its burden.

Read more about Fienman using the ‘burden of proof’ to vindicate a client of a parole violation.

Whatever Your Plan, Work with a Defense Lawyer

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to defending yourself against criminal charges. Every case is as different as you are, and each defense strategy must be tailored to your specific case circumstances. This requires a deep understanding of the law, meticulous preparation, and persuasiveness to argue in court.

An experienced lawyer will protect your rights and guide you in choosing the most effective defense based on your situation. They help articulate your version of events, present evidence that supports your case, challenge weaknesses in the alleged evidence against you, and otherwise be your voice – in and out of the courtroom.

For the Best Possible Strategy, Contact Fienamn Defense.

At Fienman Defense, we are committed to providing you with the best possible defense based on the unique nuances of your case and situation. Attorney Michael Fienman is highly experienced and dedicated to ensuring your rights are protected every step of the way.

With a long and successful record defending clients in similar cases, if you need legal assistance or guidance on handling criminal charges, don’t hesitate to contact us. We will review the details, develop a plan, and put it into action to secure the most favorable outcome available.

Call (215) 839-9529 for a free and confidential case evaluation.

Attorney Michael H. Fienman represents clients in criminal and traffic matters throughout Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Mr. Fienman has completed the same DWI detection training as most law enforcement officers, and he holds a certificate in Standardized Field Sobriety Testing approved by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). As an experienced trial attorney, he understands your rights and is a zealous advocate with a reputation for relentlessly defending clients in state court, federal court, and administrative agencies.

Attorney Fienman is licensed to practice before the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania, the Supreme Court of New Jersey, the US District Court for the District of New Jersey, and the US District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.

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