Duress or Necessity

Normally, you cannot take something without paying for it. Such an act would normally constituted a theft. Imagine, though, that you see a man in need of immediate medical attention laying in the road. You realize seconds matter in this case. You see a convenience store and your instincts kick in. You run in to grab gauze and water and run out without paying for it to go help the man. Theft? Certainly not. You have the defense of duress or necessity. But you might have to do some proving before the charges get dropped (that is, if you are charged in the first place).

Before a jury can find that you acted under the defense of duress or necessity, they must find the following six elements:

  1. That you reasonably believed a danger or emergency existed which was not caused by you
  2. That danger or emergency threatened significant harm to yourself or another
  3. The danger or emergency threatened death or serious bodily injury
  4. The threatened harm must have been real, imminent, and impending.
  5. You had no reasonable means to avoid the danger or emergency but to commit the crime and..
  6. The harm that the you avoided must outweigh the harm caused by committing the crime.

The reasonableness of your belief that a danger or emergency existed will be examined in the light of all the evidence that surrounded you at the time.

If the jury believes that you committed the crime out of duress or necessity, you should be found not guilty.

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