Necessity Law and Legal Definition
In the U.S. criminal law, necessity is a form of defense. Usually, defendants argue that their actions were necessary to prevent a greater evil. A person can use physical force upon another person when s/he reasonably believes that it is necessary to defend himself/herself or a third person. The person should reasonably believe that another person will use unlawful physical force to cause harm. The person can use force only to an extent necessary to avert a danger. However, the burden to prove the same is on the defendant. The defendant should produce evidence to prove that:
- The harm the defendant wanted to avoid outweighs the danger of the prohibited conduct the person is charged with.
- The defendant had no other reasonable alternative.
- The defendant had stopped the prohibited action when the other danger passed.
- The defendant had not created the other danger that the defendant wanted to avoid by doing the prohibited action.
Necessity amounts to a defense of justification in most states. Generally, a defendant is under strict liability for his/her actions. However, the defense of necessity can apply on an action which is otherwise a punishable criminal offense when the defendant reasonably believed that his/her action was to avoid an injury. The defendant’s action need not have averted the a greater harm, but the person’s belief should be reasonable.