Necessity may be available as a defense in a Washington criminal case when “physical forces of nature or the pressure of circumstances” cause a defendant to do something illegal to avoid a harm that is greater than the harm resulting from the unlawful act. A defendant recently challenged her conviction for residential burglary, arguing the jury had wrongly rejected her common law necessity defense.
According to the appeals court’s unpublished opinion, the defendant ran out of gas in an unfamiliar area. She walked to a museum. The defendant claimed she slipped in snow and injured her back. She claimed she called out, but no one responded and the museum was closed for the winter. She did not have a phone with her.
Witnesses testified about the bad weather that night. The defendant claimed it was “super windy” and “freezing.” There was evidence of six to eight inches of snow on the museum property. The defendant claimed she was lying in the snow for hours. She ultimately went to the doublewide manufactured home where the museum caretaker lived.