When a person is accused of a serious crime, he or she can explain the crime a defense. There are two broad categories of defense in which most defenses fall. One is excuses and the other is justification. Justification defenses say that while a person did whatever is prohibited by a statute, his or her actions were justified because they prevented a greater evil or harm.
Some of the most basic of justification defenses include self defense, defense of others, defense of habitation, defense of property, and necessity. Self defense is the one that most people recognize. The other defenses are basically variations of self defense.
In self defense, a person is saying that he or she was justified in assaulting or killing another person because that person attacked him or her first. Without the actions that harmed the attacker, the person would have been harmed him or herself. This defense is typically not available to individuals who started the altercation in question since they had the choice to not start the fight. If the initial attacker announces or declares in some way that he or she is leaving and that it’s over and then is attacked, the defense might be available.
Necessity is a defense that is commonly confused. It used to be that a natural force, like a hurricane or a storm or a forest fire, could lead a person to do something that was against the law. The defense was that had the person not done whatever he or she did, a greater evil would have occurred. For instance, a person is out on a lake in a sail boat when a huge thunderstorm blows in. Recognizing that the situation is beyond his or her experience, the sailors crash their boat into someone’s dock and break into the cabin for shelter. This is a crime but because the person claims that he or she would have died without this action, he or she can claim necessity as a defense.