Necessity and Duress
Sometimes the best defense to criminal charges is not as simple as “I didn’t do it.” Every single case, no matter how insignificant or serious the allegations, has unique facts and circumstances. There is a story behind every case, and each case deserves a unique and effective defense. For those reasons, if you are charged with a criminal offense, you should not hesitate to consult with a St. Petersburg criminal defense attorney with expertise in utilizing the myriad of defenses available to their clients.
The most basic of all defenses begins with reasonable doubt. In any prosecution for a criminal matter, the state must prove all of the elements of an offense against the accused beyond and to the exclusion of every reasonable doubt. If your lawyer can poke holes in the state’s case or present evidence that calls their theory into question, you can be acquitted due to the prosecutor’s failure to establish proof beyond a reasonable doubt. You can also present certain “affirmative defenses” or defenses that definitively establish your innocence. The difference presented by affirmative defenses is that the defendant has the burden to establish these. Affirmative defenses include self defense and defense of others, alibi, necessity and duress.Necessity Defense
When presenting an affirmative defense, it is important to consult a lawyer that makes you fully aware of the risks associated with going forward with such a defense. This is because affirmative defenses require that the defendant admit that he or she actually committed the crime. An affirmative defense requires proof of circumstances that make the crime legal to commit. When dealing with a necessity defense, the Florida Supreme Court has given the legal community some guidelines that help determine when a necessity defense is warranted.
The elements of a necessity defense are laid out in Florida Standard Jury Instruction 3.6(k). The instruction states that necessity is a defense to any crime if the defendant establishes six elements. First, the defendant must have reasonably believed that a danger or emergency existed that was not caused by the defendant. Second, the danger or emergency must threaten significant harm or death to the defendant or another person. Third, the threat must be real, impending and imminent. Fourth, there must have been no reasonable alternative to escape the danger except for committing the crime. Fifth, the criminal act must have been committed in order to escape the danger. Finally, the harm caused by the defendant’s crime must not be outweighed by the harm sought to be avoided.
A good example of the use of the necessity defense is a driving offense. In the State of Florida, it is illegal to drive a motor vehicle with a suspended license. However, under certain circumstances, it might be necessary to commit the crime of driving with a suspended license if it is necessary to save the life of the defendant or another person. A passenger in a vehicle would likely be able to present a necessity defense if the driver suffered a medical emergency, and the passenger drove the vehicle with a suspended license in order to get the drive medical attention. There are many ways a necessity defense might be presented in a myriad of different cases, so if you are charged with a crime you should speak to a skilled St. Petersburg criminal defense attorney right away to discuss your options.
Duress is a defense that carries elements that are identical to necessity, but is often used in a specific circumstance. If another person forces a defendant to commit a crime by threatening imminent harm to either the defendant or another person, a defense of duress can be claimed. If the defendant can present evidence that a third party threatened to kill the defendant’s family member, for example, and there was proof that the third party would be able to carry out the threat, a defense of duress could be raised.Speak to Our Lawyers Today
Call the St. Petersburg criminal defense lawyers at Hanlon Law today at 727.289.0222 for a consultation to start building the best defense for your case.