A complete defense is a type of affirmative defense that nullifies an entire claim against the defendant. Complete defenses are relevant in both civil lawsuits and criminal proceedings.
Unlike a mitigation defense, which reduces but does not remove liability, successfully establishing a complete defense absolves a party from any and all liability for a given act. Additionally, because claims are often interwoven, establishing a complete defense for one claim often acts as a complete defense against other claims.
Examples of complete defenses include consent, act of God, and involuntary intoxication. Additionally, in jurisdictions that follow contributory negligence, establishing that the plaintiff was negligent functions as a complete defense.
[Last updated in July of 2022 by the Wex Definitions Team]