Legal Dictionary


Definition of defense

Alternative forms


    From the French défense, itself from Latin defensa, "protection".


  • (RP) IPA: /dɛˈfɛns/
  • (US) IPA: /diˈfɛns/
  • Audio (US) [?]
  • Rhymes: -ɛns


defense (plural defenses) (US)

  1. The action of defending or protecting from attack, danger, or injury.
  2. An argument in support or justification of something.
  3. Government policy or structure related to the military.

    Department of Defense

Further reading

In civil proceedings and criminal prosecutions under the common law, a defendant may raise a defense (or defence) in an attempt to avoid criminal or civil liability. Besides contesting the accuracy of any allegation made against him or her in a criminal or civil proceeding, a defendant may also make allegations against the prosecutor or plaintiff or raise a defense, arguing that, even if the allegations against the defendant are true, the defendant is nevertheless not liable.

Since a defense is raised by the defendant in a direct attempt to avoid what would otherwise result in liability, the defendant typically holds the burden of proof. For example, if a defendant in an assault and battery case attempts to claim provocation, the victim of said assault and battery would not have to prove that he did not provoke the plaintiff; the defendant would have to prove that the plaintiff did.

Civil law defenses

In common law, a defendant may raise any of the numerous defenses to limit or avoid liability. These include:


In addition to defenses against prosecution and liability, a defendant may also raise a defense of [[justification] - such as self-defense and defense of others or defence of property.

See also


  1. Wiktionary. Published under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.


1.     lex fori
2.     landed property
3.     salacious
4.     lex situs
5.     lex causae
6.     violent crime
7.     conscionable
8.     family court
9.     leasing
10.     public liability