Criminal Defense

What is ‘Strict Liability’ in Criminal Law?

June 27, 2022 by Alexandra Carter in Criminal Defense  
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The Legal Doctrine of Strict Liability

Under California law, strict liability crimes are those that do not require the prosecutor to provide fault. Rather, all the prosecutor has to prove is that the defendant did something to break the law — no malice or intent required.

For example:

  1. In DUI cases, the prosecutor must only prove the defendant’s blood alcohol content (BAC) was over the legal limit. They are not required to prove that Sally went to a party with the intent of drinking too much, getting behind the wheel, and causing an accident.
  2. To issue a parking ticket for parking in a handicapped spot, the prosecutor (or police) must only prove the defendant, in fact, parked there. They are not required to prove that Johnny set out with the intention of stealing a handicapped person’s parking spot, so they were inconvenienced and ended up missing their doctor’s appointment, for example.
  3. To be convicted of driving without a license, the prosecutor does not have to prove the defendant intentionally drove without a license. All they have to prove is that when the defendant was pulled over, they did not have a valid driver’s license.

Under other forms of crime in California, such as murder, in most cases, the prosecutor has the burden to prove the defendant planned the murder or acted in a way that was so careless that it led to murder. But, there is no specific state of mind required to be convicted of strict liability crimes.

Legal Defenses for Strict Liability Crimes

Strict liability crimes can be difficult to defend because the prosecutor has less to prove. But this does not mean they are impossible to defend. There are some legal defenses that a skilled criminal defense attorney can raise in these types of cases, including:

Mistaken Identity

If the police arrest the wrong person and the defendant did not actually commit any crime, your attorney will work to prove mistaken identity. This legal defense is closely linked with traffic cases in the Golden State as license plate readers can make mistakes and result in the wrong person being issued a ticket for something someone else did. Proving that it was, in fact, someone else who committed the offense is an effective defense to these types of charges.

For example:

Sasha’s car gets stolen. The thief runs through four red lights, and Sasha receives the tickets because the red light cameras snapped pictures of her license plate. Sasha’s attorney is able to fight the tickets by proving her car was stolen, and Sasha was not the one driving.

Did Not Commit Crime

The most common defense to use against a strict liability charge is to prove the defendant did not actually commit the crime. Remember, prosecutors still must prove the defendant, in fact, did the thing that the law prohibits. If they can’t do that, or the defendant’s attorney is able to prove the defendant could not have done it, a strong defense to the charge is built.

For example:

Remy gets pulled over and cannot find his car insurance card. He also just got a new phone and is unable to access his car insurance app to show proof of insurance. So, he receives a ticket for driving uninsured. Remy’s attorney calls his car insurance company, and they send a letter stating he was, in fact, insured the day he got pulled over.

Why Do I need an Attorney?

One question we often come across in these types of questions is, “if the defendant is held strictly liable, why do I need an attorney?” 

No matter what kind of case you are involved in, you should always seek the counsel of an attorney to win your case and/or obtain a favorable settlement.

Remember, the prosecutor is still required to prove certain elements in strict liability cases, and an attorney can help counter their claims.

Need Further Help?

Contact Esfandi Law Group today. We look forward to helping you.

Need an Attorney? CALL NOW: 310-274-6529

Seppi Esfandi is an Expert Attorney who has over 21 years of practice defending a variety of cases.

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Lara S.
December 3, 2019
Seppi had my case reduced to just an infraction, and thanks to him I was able to keep my job. Jorge was extremely helpful too, the reason I went with this law firm. Overall pleased.

How to Win Your Case

We cannot stress enough that you read, understand and follow these 10 basic rules if you are criminally charged or under investigation:

  1. Don’t ever talk to the police
  2. Do not discuss your case with anyone
  3. Everything you tell your lawyer is confidential
  4. Tell police you need to contact your attorney
  5. Never consent to any search by the police
  6. If the police knock on your door, don't answer!
  7. Realize the consequences of a criminal conviction
  8. Your lawyer (not you) will contact any witnesses
  9. Information on your cell phone is evidence
  10. Early Intervention is the key

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