While it is possible to imagine cases where it seems necessary to commit a money-related crime, courts tend to view these situations negatively. Economic hardship is not considered an acceptable defense of necessity, as social assistance and other support programs eliminate the need to steal for personal protection, food, etc. In Canada, necessity is recognized as a defence for crimes committed in urgent situations of clear and imminent danger where the accused has no safe or legal way out. Only if all these conditions are met is the urgency exception applicable. It`s also important to note that in some jurisdictions, the need is never a defense against the murder of another person, no matter how threatening that may be. You also don`t have to prove that you had a “medical need” for the drug to use the compassionate use defense.3. For example, if the bus driver had access to an emergency braking system that was supposed to stop the bus in the event of a failure of the regular brakes, he would not have the right to commit a crime to prevent a collision because he had a realistic alternative. For example, a drunk driver might claim that he drove his car to escape a kidnapping (cf. North by Northwest).
Most common law and civil law jurisdictions recognize this defence, but only in certain circumstances. In general, the defendant must explicitly prove (i.e. provide evidence) that (a) the harm he sought to avoid outweighs the risk of the prohibited conduct of which he is accused; (b) they had no reasonable alternative; (c) they have ceased the prohibited conduct as soon as the danger has passed; and (d) they themselves did not create the danger they sought to avoid. Thus, in the example of the “drunk driver” cited above, the plea of necessity is not accepted if the defendant drove further than was reasonably necessary to escape the abductor or if he had another reasonable alternative. On the other hand, firefighters and other civil protection organizations have a general duty to protect the community. If a fire or flood threatens to spiral out of control, it may be reasonably necessary to destroy other property to form a firebreak, or to enter land to project mounds of earth to prevent water from spreading. To use necessity as a defense, you must show that you did nothing to contribute to or cause the initial threat. If you were an innocent bystander and had no idea that a situation would arise, and you committed a criminal act to reduce the harm, the defence of necessity applies. However, if you were involved in the first incident or were aware of a problem and did nothing to prevent it beforehand, breaking the law to stop it would not be considered justified. A jury will analyze the evidence, testimony, and arguments relevant to your specific case and determine how they could have acted in the same circumstances. If your actions make sense to them, your defense of necessity might succeed.
An interesting topic that has developed over the past twenty-five years has been situations where prisoners have escaped from prison, claiming that escape is the only way to avoid greater harm such as sexual assault and beatings. Typically, these arguments were rejected when other non-penal options were available to prisoners. However, there have been cases where the court has allowed this defence to be argued at least before the jury, in which the defendant has proved that efforts to obtain the protection of prison authorities or the courts would have been impossible or futile. However, the same courts have pointed out that, even if the necessity of the crime of escape may apply, the defendant can only successfully apply the defence if he can prove that once the imminent danger of harm has passed, he has surrendered to the competent authorities. See People v. Lovercamp, 43 Cal. App.3d 823 (1974). For example: The Texas state law that creates the necessity defense also explicitly states that the defense cannot be used if there is a “clear legislative purpose to exclude the claimed justification for the conduct.” In other words, if there is a law that clearly prohibits your behaviour in the circumstances, you cannot successfully make a case of necessity.
However, several conditions must be met in order for the defendant to invoke necessity as a defence. Imminent damages required: For a defence of necessity to be valid, the damage avoided must have been imminent or imminent harm. For example, the defence of necessity does not apply to a charge of firearm infringement against a prisoner who keeps a firearm in his or her prison cell in case he needs it in a possible future prison riot. Indeed, in this situation, there is no immediacy of the prisoner`s needs. On the other hand, if the same defendant is involved in a prison riot and picks up a firearm that was dropped by another inmate, the defence of necessity could apply if the defendant genuinely and reasonably believed that the weapon would be used against him or another person if he did not recover the weapon. If there is a specific law that prohibits your actions in your exact circumstances, you cannot assert a defence of necessity. Since the defence of necessity is essentially a justification for the offence, it is imperative that the accused have no other realistic option at the time the offence was committed. If he did, his criminal acts would not be justified. That doesn`t mean, however, that there shouldn`t be an alternative at all. In general, the person will always have the option of simply letting the greatest damage happen and not acting criminally, but the courts have concluded that this is not a “realistic” option. The defence of coercion may be invoked if the accused was compelled by another person to commit an indictable offence.
Please note that the difference between coercion and necessity is that necessity can only be invoked if the accused committed his or her indictable act because of the physical forces of nature, while the defence of coercion is raised if the defendant committed his act because of threats from another person. In some cases, inmates have successfully used the defence of necessity by committing a crime to save themselves from grievous bodily harm or death, but only in the limited circumstances of the prison escape. Arguing that your actions were out of necessity and were used to protect you is a positive defense. These examples have the common characteristic that individuals deliberately break the law because they feel it is urgent to protect others from evil, but some states distinguish between a response to a crisis that arises from a completely natural cause (an inanimate force of nature), such as a fire from a lightning strike or the rain from a storm. and a response to a purely human crisis. Therefore, parents who do not have the financial means to feed their children cannot use necessity as a defense when they steal food. The existence of social benefits and strategies other than self-help refutes the assertion of an urgent need that cannot be avoided other than by breaking the law. For example, if the defendant broke into a pharmacy at night to gain access to medication that was immediately needed to save another person`s life, the defendant may raise the defence of the need for a charge of burglary or theft.
Substantial Evil Required: The defence of necessity applies only in cases where the accused seeks to thwart a major evil. The concept of significant harm is a legal term that can be confusing; Essentially, however, the term means that the defence of necessity does not apply to cases where the accused commits a crime to thwart ordinary injury or minor damage to property.