The Minnesota Supreme Court announced that it would hear the case of a woman whose driver’s license was taken from her after she drove her car under the influence in an attempt to flee her abusive husband.
The Court agreed to hear the case of a woman who has continued pursuing her license revocation case, saying that the decision to take away her ability to drive was wrong. Her attorney is arguing that her decision to drive while under the influence should fall under the state’s necessity defense and she should avoid civil penalties.
In Minnesota, the necessity defense is generally an affirmative defense claimed in cases where harm that would have resulted from following the law is found to outweigh the harm that was caused by breaking the law. In this case, appellant’s attorney is arguing that the harm caused by remaining with an abusive husband exceeds the harm of appellant driving under the influence. Appellant’s attorney will make his case before the Supreme Court, arguing that the necessity defense should be extended to cover the state’s implied consent law.
According to news reports, the trouble began in the spring of 2011 when appellant hid in her car to escape a violent fight with her husband at a cabin in Kanabec County. Both parties had been drinking and her husband followed her to the car. Once appellant was inside, her husband jumped onto the front of the vehicle and began pounding his fists into the windshield with enough force that the glass cracked. Appellant then turned on the car and drove less than a mile down the road to a nearby store to ask for help. It was at the store that appellant was arrested.
Police later conducted a test of appellant’s blood and determined that she had a BAC of 0.18 percent, more than twice the legal limit. appellant agreed to plead guilty to a careless driving charge and had her driver’s license revoked for one year. She has since reconciled with her husband and, even though her revocation period is now over, says she intends to appeal the decision to revoke her license on principle.
So far a district court judge as well as the Minnesota Court of Appeals have ruled against appellant, saying that her necessity defense does not apply to the case. The Courts have determined that the necessity defense, which exists in criminal law cases, should not apply to civil actions such as a license revocation. Moreover, the district court judge who heard the case said that though the harm to appellant personally may have outweighed the harm of driving drunk, the harm to the public is of driving drunk is greater than the danger of an isolated incident of domestic violence. Oral arguments will begin before the state Supreme Court sometime in the next several months.
Source: “Minnesota Supreme Court agrees to hear ‘necessity defense’ case,” by Abby Simons, published at StarTribune.com.