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Law School Case Brief

Stodghill v. State - 892 So. 2d 236 (Miss. 2005)


To prove that he had an objective need to commit a crime excusable by the defense of necessity, a defendant must prove three essential elements: (1) the act charged was done to prevent a significant evil; (2) there was no adequate alternative; and (3) the harm caused was not disproportionate to the harm avoided. Factors such as intoxication or abnormality are irrelevant to the inquiry into objective reasonableness since the "reasonable man" standard postulates a sane and sober man. 


Defendant George C. Stodghill and his girlfriend, Carla Kenny, spent a weekend in a secluded country cabin with his adult son and daughter and their spouses. On the night of June 10, the group held an outdoor barbeque, during which everyone consumed different amounts of alcohol. Stodghill consumed three bourbons before he and Kenny went to bed around 9:30. Stodghill woke up to discover Kenny staggering around the room. She collapsed onto the floor outside their bedroom trembling, sweating, and exhibiting seizure-like symptoms. Stodghill's daughter called 911 on the cellular phone but was unable to communicate the address of the cabin due to poor reception. Eventually, Stodghill decided to drive his girlfriend to the hospital. On the way to the hospital, he was arrested and subsequently convicted of driving under the influence of alcohol, first offense. After trial in Mississippi circuit court, Stodghill was convicted of misdemeanor first offense driving under the influence of alcohol. The circuit court imposed a sentence of 48 hours in jail and a $1,000 fine, but suspended both due to mitigating circumstances. A divided court of appeals reversed the conviction and remanded for further findings. The State was granted a writ of certiorari.


Was the conviction proper?




The state supreme court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals and affirmed the judgment of the circuit court. The court found that the record supported the finding that Stodghill had at least one adequate alternative at his disposal the night he chose to drive his girlfriend to the hospital while under the influence of alcohol. An officer testified that at the scene of the arrest, Stodghill's daughter and her husband appeared to be sober, while Stodghill was too impaired to pass the field sobriety tests. Rather than drive while intoxicated, Stodghill could have asked either his daughter or her husband to drive to the hospital. There was adequate evidence in the record for the court to find that Stodghill did not satisfy the elements of a necessity defense.

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