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Law School Case Brief

In re Eichorn - 69 Cal. App. 4th 382, 81 Cal. Rptr. 2d 535 (1998)

Rule:

An instruction on the defense of necessity is required where there is evidence sufficient to establish that defendant violated the law (1) to prevent a significant evil, (2) with no adequate alternative, (3) without creating a greater danger than the one avoided, (4) with a good faith belief in the necessity, (5) with such belief being objectively reasonable, and (6) under circumstances in which he did not substantially contribute to the emergency.

Facts:

James Warner Eichorn was convicted of a misdemeanor violation of a City of Santa Ana ordinance banning sleeping in designated public areas. Eichorn had offered to prove that on the night of the violation, every available shelter was occupied and that he was involuntarily homeless. The lower court had found that Eichorn had violated the ordinance and he was not involuntarily homeless because he did not go to an armory shelter, which its director had testified had probably not been available on that cold night. 

Issue:

Was Eichorn entitled to raise a necessity defense to charges he violated the camping ordinance?

Answer:

Yes

Conclusion:

The court granted Eichorn's writ because it found that he had been improperly denied his right to present a viable necessity defense to show that he had violated the law because of the emergency nature of his situation for which he had inadequate alternatives.

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