The Defense of Necessity and DUIs

April 01, 2014

By Keffer Hirschauer LLP

Is there ever any circumstance that would justify driving under the influence? It’s possible.

Indiana law recognizes the defense of necessity, which can be a defense to driving under the influence or other crimes. The necessity defense involves a choice between two admitted evils: the crime committed and the harm that committing the crime seeks to avoid. In order for necessity to relieve a defendant from responsibility for a crime, there are certain requirements that must be met:

(1) the act charged as a crime must have been done to prevent a significant evil;

(2) there must have been no adequate alternative to the commission of the act;

(3) the harm caused by the act must not have been disproportionate to the harm avoided;

(4) the defendant must have entertained a good-faith belief that his/her act was necessary to prevent greater harm;

(5) such belief of the defendant’s must have been objectively reasonable under all the circumstances of the case; and

(6) the defendant must not have substantially contributed to the creation of the emergency.

For example, in Toops v. State, 643 N.E.2d 387 (Ind. Ct. App. 1994), the Indiana Court of Appeals determined that “[t]here is no question that the evidence presented in this case raised a jury question as to whether Toops’s control of the car while intoxicated, an illegal act, was necessary to prevent a greater harm, namely: an automobile collision potentially resulting in personal injury or property damage.” In that case, the driver of the vehicle panicked at the sight of a police officer and dove into the back seat of the car. When the car began to swerve out of control, Toops grabbed the wheel and drove for some time despite being intoxicated. His actions prevented a greater harm and potential injury to himself and the previous driver.

It is possible to imagine any number of circumstances where necessity could be a viable defense. At Keffer Hirschauer LLP, we stand ready to provide our clients with trusted representation and accurate information regarding the law and its application to their individual case. Act now and contact us today at (317) 857-0160.