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Criminal Law: Tampering-Necessity Defense

Defendant appealed his conviction for tampering and resisting arrest, arising from an altercation where law enforcement sought to facilitate defendant’s and his wife’s eviction from their trailer park. During the altercation, defendant got into the front seat of a police vehicle and led officers on a chase. At trial, defendant claimed that he believed the officers were going to kill him and harm his wife and initiated the chase to protect her and ensure that any further altercation would be caught on camera. The trial court rejected defendant’s request for a necessity defense instruction.

Even if defendant had a subjective fear of imminent harm to himself or his wife from the police officers, there were more reasonable options to prevent that harm from occurring than leading police on a vehicle chase, which put other members of the public at risk. In addition, any purported harm that defendant and his wife faced arose from their own actions after they trespassed on the trailer park property after being evicted.

Powell, J., concurring: “I write separately, however, to emphasize the unique nature of the defense of necessity and to underscore the narrow limits of its applicability. These noteworthy characteristics are laid bare in the distinctions between the defense of necessity and other more common justification defenses such as self-defense, and in the court’s statutorily pronounced gatekeeping role in applying the necessity defense.”

Judgment is affirmed.

State v. Hurst (MLW No. 79618/Case No. SC99799 – 24 pages) (Supreme Court of Missouri, Russell, J.) Appealed from circuit court, Newton County, Selby, J. (Ellen H. Flottman, Columbia, for petitioner) (Julia E. Rives, Jefferson City, for respondent)