What is a Crime of Necessity?

You may have heard of a necessity defense – but what is it, and could it apply in your case? This guide explains crimes of necessity and when it’s appropriate to use this kind of defense in court. 

What is a Crime of Necessity?

Necessity is an affirmative defense that’s appropriate in some cases. Your attorney may say that you did, in fact, commit a crime – but you had to, and therefore the court can’t hold you liable for your actions. 

The bottom line is that you may have been in a situation where it was necessary for you to break the law in order to prevent something worse from happening. If that’s the case in your situation, your Chicago criminal defense attorney may use a necessity defense to help shield you from a conviction. (It’s important to note that no matter what, no attorney can predict how a judge will rule. Even if you and your attorney both believe it was necessary for you to commit a crime to prevent something terrible from happening, there’s no guarantee that the judge or jury will feel the same way.)

With a necessity defense, you admit that you committed a crime – but that you had to because the circumstances you were in justified it. 

Related: What does “Objection!” mean in court?

How Can Your Attorney Prove Necessity?

If you claim that it was necessary for you to commit a crime to prevent something terrible from happening, your lawyer will have to prove that:

  • There was a specific and imminent threat of danger
  • You had to act immediately
  • You didn’t have any practical alternatives (there was nothing else you could do at the time)
  • You acted out of necessity at all times
  • The harm you caused was less than the harm you prevented

Related: Can you tell your lawyer the truth if you’re charged with a violent crime?

Examples of Crimes of Necessity

Check out these possible examples of crimes of necessity:

  • A man with a suspended driver’s license is walking along the river and finds someone who’s been badly injured. He doesn’t have a phone to call for help, so he steals a car to transport the person to the hospital.
  • A woman sees a child being severely beaten by his mother. She intervenes and breaks the woman’s arm while attempting to protect the child from further harm.
  • Someone has taken a hostage in a bank lobby and is threatening to shoot them unless you jump over the desk and take money from the teller’s drawer.

Do You Need to Talk to an Attorney?

If you’ve been accused of a crime, we may be able to help you – and don’t worry: It’s completely confidential. Call us at 847-920-4540 or fill out the form below to schedule your free, private consultation with an experienced and skilled Chicago criminal defense attorney now.

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