Self Defense is probably the most well-known “affirmative defense.”
What is an “affirmative defense?”
Typically, most Georgia cases are relatively straightforward. Each criminal offense is codified by statute, and the statute lays out the “elements” of the offense. The “elements” are essentially the things that the State must prove in order to secure a conviction. It is the job of the defendant and his/her Criminal Defense Attorney to show to the finder of fact (either the jury or the judge) where the State failed to adequately prove one or more elements of the offense.
Affirmative defenses, including Self Defense, complicate this straightforward formula slightly. Individuals asserting an affirmative defense often admit that they committed the act charged in the indictment. However, they are asserting that there was a reason for their actions, and that that reason is one that the State recognizes as justification for the person’s actions. In Georgia, the Defendant has the responsibility of raising the defense and showing some proof of it. The burden then shifts to the State to disprove the affirmative defense beyond a reasonable doubt.