Is the Mere Presence Defense Viable for Your Case?
Criminal defense attorneys in Arizona and beyond often ignore the merits of the mere presence defense. Even some prosecutors are unfamiliar with this unique defense as it is rarely used. Though certain attorneys and judges recognize the merits of the mere presence defense, it is clearly underutilized. Let’s shift our attention to whether the mere presence defense has merits for your specific case.
An Explanation of the Mere Presence Defense
The mere presence defense is not difficult to comprehend. It is best to think of this unique legal defense strategy as an alteration of the common phrase of “wrong place, wrong time.” In short, guilt cannot be proven by a mere presence of the defendant at the scene of the crime. Nor does the mere association with an individual committing a crime constitute guilt. Even the mere knowledge that the crime is being committed does not automatically result in a guilty verdict. Every Arizonan should know merely being present in a situation is passive observation in which there is no criminal intent or participation in the criminal act.
Examples for Consideration
Let’s take a look at a couple examples of potential situations in which the mere presence defense might be used. Envision a party at an apartment in which college students are consuming alcohol and illegal drugs. A neighbor reports the party to the police who enter the apartment and view the illegal drugs on the living room table. All revelers are arrested after questioning does not reveal who owns the drugs. Merely being present at such a party does not constitute guilt. This is just one example of a case in which the mere presence defense has the potential to work to the defendant’s advantage.
As another example, consider a group of teens driving late at night. The car is stopped by the police as it has an inoperative headlight. The police officer runs a check on the vehicle and finds out it is stolen. The driver admits the vehicle is not his and he went for a ride without permission. If it turns out the vehicle is stolen or the driver is joyriding, those who went along for the ride should not be found guilty of breaking any laws for merely being present.
Is the Mere Presence Defense Successful?
This legal defense has the potential to be successful. Plenty of Arizona legal experts insist the mere presence defense should be used much more frequently as it is the type of defense jurors are likely to find logical. Most jurors have been in the wrong place at the wrong time so they might be convinced that the mere presence defense is a legal argument with considerable merit. This is exactly why prosecutors detest the mere presence defense.
The truth is anyone living in Arizona can find him or herself in a bad position by merely going out in public to work, shop, exercise, etc. Simply witnessing a crime or knowing a crime is occurring should not result in penalty of any sort.
The Mere Presence Defense has Its Limits
The mere presence defense will not work if there is evidence that links you to the supposed crime. As an example, if your fingerprints are found on a bag full of illegal drugs, the mere presence defense probably won’t convince jurors you are not guilty. Your Arizona criminal defense attorney will analyze the factors of the investigation to determine if there are inconsistencies with a potential mere presence defense.
You won’t know for sure if the mere presence defense is applicable to your case or if it is prudent to use it as a component of your legal defense until you consult with an attorney. Meet with a criminal defense attorney in Arizona with a reputation for fiercely defending clients and you will have a better sense of whether the mere presence defense should be used in your unique case.