Defense (legal)

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For other uses, see Defence (disambiguation).

In civil proceedings and criminal prosecutions under the common law, a defendant may raise a defence (or defense) in an attempt to avoid criminal or civil liability. Besides contesting the accuracy of any allegation made against him or her in a criminal or civil proceeding, a defendant may also make allegations against the prosecutor or plaintiff or raise a defence, arguing that, even if the allegations against the defendant are true, the defendant is nevertheless not liable.

The defense phase of a trial occurs after the prosecution phase, that is, after the prosecution "rests". Other parts of the defense include the opening and closing arguments and the cross-examination during the prosecution phase.

Since a defence is raised by the defendant in a direct attempt to avoid what would otherwise result in liability, the defendant typically holds the burden of proof. For example, if a defendant in an assault and battery case attempts to claim provocation, the victim of said assault and battery would not have to prove that he did not provoke the defendant; the defendant would have to prove that the plaintiff did.

Civil law defences[edit]

In common law, a defendant may raise any of the numerous defences to limit or avoid liability. These include:

In addition to defences against prosecution and liability, a defendant may also raise a defence of justification - such as self-defence and defence of others or defence of property.


Litigation is expensive and often may last for months or years. Parties can finance their litigation and pay for their attorneys' fees or other legal costs in a number of ways. Defendants can pay with their own money, through legal defence funds, or legal financing companies.

See also[edit]