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How are procedural defenses different from substantive defenses?

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cjcmajor | Student, College Freshman | (Level 1) Honors

Posted May 31, 2011 at 8:51 AM via web

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How are procedural defenses different from substantive defenses?

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted May 31, 2011 at 9:01 AM (Answer #1)

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The difference between these two is that a substantive defense argues that the defendant did not actually commit the act alleged against him or her while a procedural defense simply says that the defendant is not legally liable, regardless of whether he or she commited the alleged act.

In a procedural defense, the defense does not necessarily claim it did not commit the alleged act.  Instead, it argues that it is not legally liable.  An example of this would be the defense of entrapment.  In this defense, the defendant claims that they would not have done the act but for the actions of the government.  In such a case, the defendant is admitting that they actually committed the act, but is claiming that they are not liable because of misconduct on the part of the government.

So, a substantive defense says "I didn't do it" while a procedural defense says "Regardless of whether I did it, you can't find me guilty because..."

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