In U.S. criminal law, necessity may be either a possible justification or an exculpation for breaking the law. Defendants seeking to rely on this defense argue that they should not be held liable for their actions as a crime because their conduct was necessary to prevent some greater harm and when that conduct is not excused under some other more specific provision of law such as self defense. Except for a few statutory exemptions and in some medical cases there is no corresponding defense in English law.
For example, a drunk driver might contend that he drove his car to get away from a kidnap (cf. North by Northwest). Most common law and civil law jurisdictions recognize this defense, but only under limited circumstances. Generally, the defendant must affirmatively show (i.e., introduce some evidence) that (a) the harm he sought to avoid outweighs the danger of the prohibited conduct he is charged with; (b) he had no reasonable alternative; (c) he ceased to engage in the prohibited conduct as soon as the danger passed; and (d) he did not himself create the danger he sought to avoid. Thus, with the "drunk driver" example cited above, the necessity defense will not be recognized if the defendant drove further than was reasonably necessary to get away from the kidnapper, or if some other reasonable alternative was available to him. However case law suggests necessity is narrowed to medical cases.
The political necessity defense saw its demise in the case of United States v. Schoon. In that case, thirty people, including appellants, gained admittance to the IRS office in Tucson, where they chanted "keep America's tax dollars out of El Salvador," splashed simulated blood on the counters, walls, and carpeting, and generally obstructed the office's operation. The court ruled that the elements of necessity did not exist in this case.
Other articles related to "necessity":
... The Doctrine of Necessity is the basis on which extra-legal actions by state actors, which are designed to restore order, are found to be constitutional ... the Chief Justice cited Bracton's maxim, 'that which is otherwise not lawful is made lawful by necessity', thereby providing the label that would come to be attached to the judgment ... The Doctrine of Necessity has since been applied in a number of Commonwealth countries, and in 2010 was invoked to justify extra-legal actions in Nigeria ...
... Utmost necessity may be invoked where an interest protected by the Criminal Code (such as right to property or right to life) is endangered ... An example of necessity would be a defense against a raging dog (unless the dog was directly sent by the owner, which would be case of necessary defense) ... The necessity may be invoked only in case of imminent danger and only if there is no other way of avoiding it (subsidiarity), such as locking oneself behind a fence or ...
... The Doctrine of Philosophical Necessity (1777) is one of the major metaphysical works of 18th-century British polymath Joseph Priestley ... to Matter and Spirit (1777), Priestley published The Doctrine of Philosophical Necessity Illustrated (1777), an "appendix" to the Disquisitions that "suggests that materialism and determinism ... also claimed in works such as Philosophical Necessity that humans have no free will ...
... Conceptual necessity is a property of the certainty with which a state of affairs, as presented by a certain description, occurs it occurs by conceptual necessity if and only if it occurs just by ... is a bachelor, for instance, then he is bound to be unmarried by conceptual necessity, because the meaning of the word "bachelor" determines that he is ... Alternatively, there is metaphysical necessity, which is a certainty determined, not by the meaning of a description, but instead by facts in the world described ...
... To the inherent necessity of greed of profit, of confidence tricks, of taking people unawares here, and the inherent necessity of inertia and cowardice there, he wants to oppose the inherent ...
Famous quotes containing the word necessity:
“With my desire to write he seemed in full sympathy, and in urging our early marriage he argued that my first necessity was leisure in which to develop and to master my craft. It appeared to me that with such a man as teacher and guide I could not fail, and it was in a queer mixture of young love and vaulting ambition that I became a wife.”
—Rheta Childe Dorr (18661948)
“Our good schools today are much better than the best schools of yesterday. When I was your age and a pupil in school, our teachers were our enemies.
Can any thing ... be more painful to a friendly mind, than a necessity of communicating disagreeable intelligence? Indeed it is sometimes difficult to determine, whether the relator or the receiver of evil tidings is most to be pitied.”
—Frances Burney (17521840)
“The objects of a financier are, then, to secure an ample revenue; to impose it with judgment and equality; to employ it economically; and, when necessity obliges him to make use of credit, to secure its foundations in that instance, and for ever, by the clearness and candour of his proceedings, the exactness of his calculations, and the solidity of his funds.”
—Edmund Burke (17291797)