In a criminal prosecution, the government bears the burden of proving every single element of the offense beyond a reasonable doubt. However, a defense attorney can present evidence to negate or raise reasonable doubt or present what is called an affirmative defense. Mistaken identity and alibi are two kinds of defenses that negate the prosecution's element. The attorney presents evidence to show that a witness is mistaken about what he or she thinks they saw in the first case, or she can show that the accused was in a completely different place when the charged offense happened in the latter.
An affirmative defense is one that does not deny that the charged action happened, but it was under circumstances that negate criminal liability. A perfect example of this is self-defense. A skilled defense attorney would be able to identify and properly introduce evidence to warrant a self defense instruction to the jurors.
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