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Defense of Crimes: Necessity or Duress


Sometimes a defendant knows that the act they committed although normally a crime is justified because of necessity or duress.

A “crime of necessity” occurs when an individual commits an unlawful act in response to an emergency, or other situation where theirs or another’s life was at stake. For example, a woman fleeing a perpetrator of sexual assault may be justified to drive on a suspended license, or to drive above the speed limit. 

Examples of Crimes of Duress or Necessity

No two scenarios that involve a crime of necessity are identical, but a few examples of acceptable actions of necessity include the following:

  • Speeding in order to get to the hospital for a medical emergency;
  • Failing to stop for the police due to a medical emergency;
  • An individual trespasses in order to extinguish a fire;
  • An individual witnesses current domestic battery from a window outside, and forcibly takes another person’s phone away from them when they refuse to offer it, in order to dial 911;
  • An individual breaks the window of a car in which a child or dog is locked inside when it is dangerously hot.

Necessary Elements to Prove Necessity

Under the jury instructions in Florida, the defense of necessity or duress occurs only when the defendant committed a lesser crime to prevent a greater crime (or harm) from occurring. Their actions must meet the following elements:

  • The defendant reasonably believed that the danger or emergency existed, and that danger or emergency was not caused by themselves ;
  • The danger or emergency posed a significant threat to the defendant or another person;
  • The threatened harm was real, imminent, and impending; and
  • The only way to prevent the danger or emergency was to commit the lesser crime;
  • The harm avoided by committing the lesser crime must be smaller than the harm caused by committing the crime.

Call The Port St. Lucie Criminal Defense Lawyers of Baginski Brandt & Brandt  

Being charged with a crime when you were simply trying to do the right thing is a hard blow to take. To clear your name of wrongdoing, you must work with an experienced Port St. Lucie criminal lawyer. Contact the legal team at Baginski Brandt & Brandt today at 772-466-0707 to schedule a free consultation today.


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Port St. Lucie 8483 S. U.S. Highway One
Port St. Lucie, Florida 34952
Stuart By Appointment Only 100 SW Albany Ave., Suite 300k
Stuart, FL 34994
Fort Pierce By Appointment Only 311 S 2nd St., Suite 102b
Fort Pierce, FL 34950
Telephone: 772-466-0707 Fax: 772-223-9290 or 772-466-0907 Office Hours: 8:30 to 5:00pm M-F