The Necessity Defense

“Necessity” is a legal defense that a defendant can use to drop the charges against them due to the necessity of the circumstances to prevent worse crime or harm from happening by committing a lesser crime, as long as there is a good reason for it. This is a justification defense as it focuses of the value of the act, compared to excuse defense such as duress. Read about another defense that lawyers use, The Intoxication Defense.

Examples of necessity

The following are typical examples of situations when a necessity defense will work:

  • Trespassing to save someone’s life.
  • Breaking and entering to put out a fire.
  • Destroying or burning property to form a firebreak.

Asserting the legal defense of necessity

There are many requirements that must be fulfilled before necessity can be used as a defense:

Acting to avoid a significant risk of harm or evil. The first and foremost requirement of necessity is, is the reason worthy enough, like saving a person’s from possible injury or harm? If not, necessity cannot be used as a defense.

No other lawful means could be used to escape the harm. Was the act the only way to escape the situation without any legal alternatives? While self-defense (especially if it involves killing the aggressor) is a different thing altogether from necessity, it is a great example since the defendant should try calming the aggressor first or call the authorities.

The harm avoided was greater than that caused by breaking the law. What would be the point of committing the crime to save someone, if it only makes it worse?

Belief that the act was necessary. The defendant has to truly believe that the act was necessary, and was not forced to do so.

Reasonable to believe act was necessary. They also have to believe that it was a reasonable course of action at the moment; something a person in the same situation would have done.

Did not substantially contribute to the emergency. The defendant should not be the cause of the emergency in the first place. Let’s say an arsonist (who has a strange habit of burning people’s homes, if no one was inside) has saved someone’s life from a burning building by breaking in and getting them out. Although they were the cause of the fire in the first place.

However, using this as a defense means that the burden of proof falls on the defendant, and they have to fulfill the requirements stated, and the story has to be believable or likely. It can also be taken as admitting to the crime since the defendant was arguing for the necessity of it. That’s why it is important to get an experienced Las Vegas criminal defense lawyer to defend you as they can suggest the best course of action to take for the best chance in court.