When it comes to defending clients against the levied charges, it is our duty to explore all the possible ways we can put forth a credible defense. Sometimes finding a defense plan is easy, while other times it takes a lot of digging and case review.
One of the more interesting defenses a person can use is called the necessity defense. We take a closer look at the necessity defense and how it may be applied in the court of law.
The Necessity Defense Explained
The necessity defense stakes it’s claim to the notion that the defendant’s actions were necessary in order to prevent greater harm from coming. It is also called the Lesser of Two Evils Defense, and it has a unique role in the criminal trial process.
The necessity defense can best be explained using some examples we’ve seen in our time as defense lawyers. Here are some instances where a person could pursue the necessity defense at trial.
- A woman is drinking wine at home with her sister when her abusive husband comes home and start to physically assault her. The ladies flee to a nearby vehicle and drive away. Down a road, a police officer sees them speeding away, stops the vehicle and eventually charges the woman with DUI because she’s over the legal driving limit.
- A man with a suspended license is outside when he hears his neighbor yelling for help. She’s gone into early labor, so he hops in her car and drives her to the hospital. While he’s parking the car, an officer notices a faulty break light and stops the driver. The driver is charged with driving with a suspended license.
- A woman who has been prescribed medical marijuana for her glaucoma is sitting on her back porch with her friend when the friend falls and hits her head. The woman is feeling the effects of the marijuana, but her friend has a serious head wound, so she drives her to the nearby hospital. On the way, an officer stops her for failing to signal her turn.
Factors That Must Be Present
The necessity defense is similar to self defense, but just because there’s an emergency or someone needs help doesn’t mean you have carte blanche to do whatever you want. Under Minnesota law, certain factors must be present in order for someone to successfully be able to argue the necessity defense. There must exist:
- A a specific threat of significant, imminent danger
- An immediate necessity to act
- No practical alternative to the act
- The defendant didn’t cause or contribute to the threat
- The defendant acted out of necessity at all times, and
- The harm caused wasn’t greater than the harm prevented
For example, if you drove drunk to the hospital because your wife was in labor, and you caused an accident that killed three others, you’re not going to be able to invoke the necessity defense. Even in the above examples, the prosecution may argue that you could have called an ambulance instead of driving the pregnant neighbor or the friend with a head wound to the hospital, so it’s not always an easy case to win. That being said, if your actions were deemed necessary and the lesser of two evils, you may be able to get the charges thrown out.
For more information or to talk to a criminal defense lawyer about your defense plan, set up a free strategy session with Avery and his team by clicking here.