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What Is the Necessity Defense?

December 9, 2018

A person may be found not guilty if they had a good reason to commit a crime.

What Is the Necessity Defense?

Life is complicated, and rarely is the answer as simple as it seems. This is often the case in criminal law cases, where a person may not have committed a crime just to “be bad” or because they lack morals. Sometimes, there may have been a good reason for doing something that is against the law — which is when a creative criminal defense lawyer San Bernardino, CA can utilize the necessity defense.

The necessity defense is also known as the “Lesser of Two Evils Defense,” because it is often used when a person is forced to make a choice between two bad things, and chooses the less bad thing. An example can help to illustrate when the necessity defense can be used.

Consider a situation where a woman is at home alone, drinking wine. Her husband comes home, and begins to physically assault her. Afraid for her life, she runs to her car and drives away. She is stopped by a police officer a few miles away from her home, and is charged with the crime of driving under the influence. In this situation, her criminal defense lawyer San Bernardino, CA may use the necessity defense because it was “less bad” to drive under the influence than it was to stay and let her husband hurt and possible kill her.

The necessity defense can be used in any number of criminal cases. A successful necessity defense will result in a defendant being entirely acquitted of the charges.

The necessity defense can be difficult to assert. To be successful, a defendant must show through his or her criminal defense lawyer San Bernardino, CA six separate elements. He or she also must prove to the jury that it is more likely or not that his version of the story is true. These six elements are as follows:

  • Preventing significant bodily harm or emergency;
  • No adequate legal alternative;
  • The act did not create a greater danger;
  • Actual belief that act was necessary;
  • Reasonable to believe act was necessary; and
  • You did not substantially contribute to the emergency

In the situation described above, if the woman could have called the police, or could have escaped by locking herself in the bedroom or by running over to the neighbors’ house next door, the necessity defense may fail. Similarly, if the woman was so drunk that she caused an accident that killed three people, the necessity defense would not likely succeed. However, if the woman lived in a very rural area with no cell phone coverage and no land line, and only had a glass of wine, her criminal defense lawyer San Bernardino, CA may be able to prevail by using a necessity defense.

The use of the necessity defense can be complex, as there are many factors that need to be considered. For example, the burden of proof is on the defendant to prove each element by a “preponderance of the evidence” (which means that there is at least a 50% chance that your story is true).

At the Chambers Law Firm, our attorneys are skilled at developing defenses to help our clients achieve the best possible outcome for their cases. Contact us today at 855-397-0210 or dchambers@clfca.com to schedule a free initial consultation with an experienced criminal defense lawyer San Bernardino, CA.

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