Commonwealth v. Hutchins

410 Mass. 726, 575 N.E.2d 741 (1991)



The application of the defense is limited to the following circumstances: (1) the defendant is faced with a clear and imminent danger, not one which is debatable or speculative; (2) the defendant can reasonably expect that his or her action will be effective as the direct cause of abating the danger; (3) there is no legal alternative which will be effective in abating the danger; and (4) the Legislature has not acted to preclude the defense by a clear and deliberate choice regarding the values at issue. 


A man was convicted for possession of THC and marijuana. On appeal, the defendant contended that the trial court erred when it refused to allow him to present evidence to support his claim that his possession of marijuana was predicated on medical necessity. The defendant claimed his medical condition, sclerodarma, had responded only to treatment with marijuana and that due to his use of marijuana, his disease had a remarkable remission. The defendant further claimed the crime he committed was done so under the pressure of imminent danger and should have been excused as the harm sought to be avoided far exceeded the harm resulting from the crime committed. 


Could the defendant use the defense of necessity?




The court rejected the defendant's arguments and affirmed the conviction. The court pointed out that the competing harms involved in this case, when compared, did not establish the defendant's defense of necessity. The defenses did not clearly and significantly outweigh the potential harm to the public or the possible negative impact on the enforcement of the drug laws.

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