In U.S. criminal law
Criminal law
Criminal law, is the body of law that relates to crime. It might be defined as the body of rules that defines conduct that is not allowed because it is held to threaten, harm or endanger the safety and welfare of people, and that sets out the punishment to be imposed on people who do not obey...

, necessity may be either a possible justification
Justification (jurisprudence)
Justification in jurisprudence is an exception to the prohibition of committing certain offenses. Justification can be a defense in a prosecution for a criminal offense. When an act is justified, a person is not criminally liable even though his act would otherwise constitute an offense. For...

 or an exculpation for breaking the law
Law is a system of rules and guidelines which are enforced through social institutions to govern behavior, wherever possible. It shapes politics, economics and society in numerous ways and serves as a social mediator of relations between people. Contract law regulates everything from buying a bus...

. Defendant
A defendant or defender is any party who is required to answer the complaint of a plaintiff or pursuer in a civil lawsuit before a court, or any party who has been formally charged or accused of violating a criminal statute...

s seeking to rely on this defense
Defense (legal)
In civil proceedings and criminal prosecutions under the common law, a defendant may raise a defense in an attempt to avoid criminal or civil liability...

 argue that they should not be held liable for their actions as a crime
Crime is the breach of rules or laws for which some governing authority can ultimately prescribe a conviction...

 because their conduct was necessary to prevent some greater harm and when that conduct is not excused under some other more specific provision of law such as self defense. Except for a few statutory exemptions and in some medical cases there is no corresponding defense in English law
English law
English law is the legal system of England and Wales, and is the basis of common law legal systems used in most Commonwealth countries and the United States except Louisiana...


For example, a drunk driver might contend that he drove his car to get away from a kidnap (cf.

Necessity is stronger far than art.


Wherever it is impossible for us to recognize the law of necessity, we believe we are free.

Wo wir unfähig sind, die Gesetze der Notwendigkeit zu erkennen, da glauben wir, frei zu sein.

It is not necessary for the public to know whether I am joking or whether I am serious, just as it is not necessary for me to know it myself.

Salvador Dalí, in Diary of a Genius (1964), p. 12

Necessity is the last and strongest weapon.

Necessitas ultimum et maximum telum est.

Not even the gods fight against necessity.


Necessity knows no laws.

English proverb