Necessity as a DUI Defense

By May 13, 2022 News

At a recent jury trial, our firm argued that it was necessary for our client to drive as a defense to Operating While Intoxicated.  Using this defense meant that we did not dispute that the client drove drunk but we argued that the circumstances required it.

Such circumstances are rare.  Necessary drunk driving is an exception and not the rule.  What are those exceptions?  When is it OK for someone to drive with a blood alcohol level above the legal limit?

To succeed on the defense of necessity, our client had to meet each of these five elements:

1.)        The defendant was the subject of threatening conduct and the threatening conduct was sufficient to create in the mind of a reasonable person the fear of death or serious bodily harm;

2.)        The conduct in fact caused such fear of death or serious bodily harm in the mind of the defendant;

3.)        The fear or duress was operating upon the mind of the defendant at the time of the alleged act;

4.)        The defendant committed the act to avoid the threatened harm; and

5.)        The defendant could not avoid the perceived harm in some other reasonable way than  by committing the act.

These elements came from a Michigan case that had nothing to do with drunk driving and there is no firm precedent for necessity and drunk driving in Michigan.  Still, in our case, the judge ruled that the necessity factors were relevant to our case and that we could use them.

Receiving a necessity instruction from a judge is the “battle” victory, so to speak.  To win the “war” (AKA trial) is a tougher challenge.  Time and again, the two main roadblocks for defendants who seek a necessity defense are (1) whether they ACTUALLY faced threatened harm and (2) whether they ONLY did what was necessary to avoid the harm.

Our case exemplified the value of having an attorney who is open to explore unique arguments and creative solutions.     If you think you’re in a comparable situation – or if you’re facing any other type of criminal charge – discuss it with the criminal defense lawyers at Willey & Chamberlain. Contact us.