What Is Defense of Necessity in a Criminal Case?

Occasionally, an individual encounters a situation that necessitates doing something unlawful in order to avert serious harm. In this case, the defendant, through their criminal lawyer, can put up a "defense of necessity" against the charges leveled against them. However, for a defense of necessity to be applicable, several vital requirements must be met or proven by the criminal defense attorney. Read on for more insight.

Reasonable belief According to the defense of necessity, the defendant must logically believe that there was an imminent danger that called for immediate action. Therefore, for example, a school bus driver might be driving a bus filled with school-aged kids when he loses control of the vehicle when approaching a sharp turn along the way. In this case, the immediate danger is that the bus may lose control and skid off the road, endangering the lives of the children on the bus. Here, a logical person would definitely agree that the out-of-control bus ferrying the children is a real danger to safety. 

No sensible alternative Given that the defense of necessity is primarily a justification of a criminal act, it's important that the defendant lacked any other sensible option when the criminal act was perpetrated. In case the defendant did, then his or her actions wouldn't be justified. In the example mentioned earlier, in case the bus driver had access to emergency brakes meant to bring the bus to a halt following the failure of the regular brakes, he or she would not have any justification for perpetrating a criminal act to avoid collision since they had a logical or practical option available. 

No greater harm The harm resulting from the criminal act should not be greater compared to the harm that would be averted. For example, if, in an attempt to avoid skidding off the road and plunging down the hill, the bus driver chooses to drive the bus into an animal shelter in order to bring the bus to a halt, he or she must be sure that no greater danger will result from this option. Given that it is an animal shelter and probably appears unoccupied to the driver, the criminal act of crushing into the animal shelter will likely be considered less dangerous than any life lost in the event the bus plunges down the hill. 

No contribution to the threat Lastly, the defendant adopting the defense of necessity must not have caused or contributed to the danger that they were later attempting to avoid by perpetrating the criminal act. Therefore, if the bus driver having been advised by a mechanic that the brakes were faulty, but opted against replacing them, he or she cannot use the defense of necessity given that it was his or her failure to replace the brakes that contributed to the danger.

Your criminal lawyer can advise you whether a defense of necessity is applicable in your criminal case. Contact a law firm like Russo Lawyers to learn more.