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Justified or Excused? The Basics of “Affirmative Defenses” in Criminal Cases in Florida

An “affirmative defense” is a defense which admits the cause of action, but avoids liability, in whole or in part, by alleging an excuse, justification, or other matter negating or limiting liability. In layman’s terms, “I did it, but my act is justified or excused.” If the defense is accepted by the jury, then the verdict must be “not guilty” because the entire criminal act is excused or justified (and, therefore, legally negated). If the defense is not accepted, the accused has admitted to all the elements of the offense (and usually convicted him or herself).