Exploring Civil Case Proceedings

Exploring Civil Case Proceedings

How To Use Necessity As A Criminal Defense

by Becky Freeman

Not all people who commit criminal acts do so on purpose. Sometimes an individual will break the law for a justifiable reason. One possible defense against criminal charges is proving to the court that committing the crime was necessary to prevent significant harm from occurring to yourself or other people. Here's more information about the necessity defense and how to successfully use it in court.

The Necessity Defense

This is a valid legal defense that absolves a person's liability for criminal actions or conduct if the individual committed the act to stop an even greater crime from occurring or prevent his- or herself or another person from being significantly harmed. For example, this defense is commonly evoked in situations where one person trespasses on another individual's property to save the victim from harm (e.g. stop a burglary).

This law can only be used in situations where other defenses cannot be invoked. For instance, if you shoot someone who's attempting to stab you with a knife, you would use self-defense as a counter to criminal charges rather than the necessity defense.

There are two subcategories of this defense that can be used depending on the circumstances of the case: private necessity and public necessity. Both of these subcategories involve trespassing on private property. Private necessity is illustrated by the previous example of entering another person's property to save the individual from a worse fate. Although you may be absolved of criminal charges, you would still be responsible for paying for any damages you caused attempting to help the person (e.g. pay for breaking down the person's front door).

Public necessity, however, is an absolute defense to both criminal charges and civil liability. In this situation, you trespass on another's property to prevent greater harm from being done to the community or society as a whole. For instance, you break into your neighbor's house to repair a leaky gas valve that could cause an explosion and set nearby homes on fire.

Using the Necessity Defense in Court

Whether you want to use the necessity defense or one of its subcategories, there are several things you must prove to get the court to side with you in the case:

  • The threat or danger was imminent
  • You had to act immediately
  • There was no other legal or practical alternative
  • You did not cause or contribute to the threat
  • All of the actions you took were necessary to deal with or escape the threat
  • The crime committed was less than the harm that could have been done

All of these elements must be true to win your case. Even one missing factor can result in a guilty verdict. For instance, people who protest against the government or other organizations frequently use the necessity defense to excuse illegal actions. Courts have ruled against protestors for trespassing on the property of companies that owned nuclear plants because there was no imminent threat posed to the individuals or community by the machines.

Another example of where things can go wrong is when a person continues the illegal behavior even after the threat has been mitigated. For instance, an intoxicated person drives a vehicle to help a friend escape a rape attempt or other bodily harm. However, the individual continues to drive long after the threat has been eliminated. This person could still be charged with drunk driving because the action they took was no longer necessary to prevent a greater crime from occurring.

There are a lot of nuances involved with using necessity as a defense against criminal charges. It's essential that you discuss this strategy with a criminal defense attorney to ensure you're using it effectively and providing all the proof needed to prevail in court.


About Me

Exploring Civil Case Proceedings

Hello and welcome, I'm Winfred Paulo. I have a passion for civil court cases of all kinds. Some time back, I ended up in the thick of a civil case after a lengthy dispute with my neighbor. The dispute went on for years and ended badly with an incident that landed us both in court. We had to prove our side of the case in an effort to obtain a positive outcome and recoup our losses. Unfortunately, I lost the case due to a lack of evidence. Since then, I've maintain a strong interest in civil cases and their proceedings. I will share information about civil cases on this site to help others understand these proceedings better. I may talk about legal terms, and expected outcomes for each case type. I hope you visit often to learn more. Thanks for stopping by my website.