Charles V. Podesta Jr.
BUL 4421 – 004
Case Brief Assignment
Case Name: State v. Cole, 304 S.C. 47, 403 S.E.2d 117
Facts: The Defendant in this case, Roger Wayne Cole, had a suspended license and was unable to drive an automobile in the time of this incident. Due to, his claim, an emergency situation the appellant found it necessary to operate a motor vehicle despite his circumstances (having a suspended license). The appellant made claims that his spouse was pregnant, six months in term, and having pains to the point where emergency help was required. Further information was provided by the appellant that claims, that no phone was available – either his home or the neighbors. The appellant then drove to a nearby telephone, called family to escort his wife to care, and returned home. Upon his return trip, a broken taillight on his vehicle allowed police to perform a traffic stop, and at that time an arrest was made for driving under a suspended license.
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Henderson, 298 S.C. 331, 380 S.E.2d 817 (1989); State v. Worley, 265 S.C. 551, 220 S.E.2d 242 (1975). Additionally, State V. Robinson, 294 S.C. 120, 121-122, 363 S.E.2d 104, 104 (1987), is sited in constructing circumstances for which criminal act could be excused.
Reasoning: The reasoning behind this case is based in the belief that an individual should not be unlawfully responsible if he/she commits and illegal act to avoid a greater harm. The court sited that given that the defense of necessity is based on public policy and reflects a purpose that if the legislature had foreseen the conditions faced by the defendant, and exception would have been constructed. Thus this court found that public policy does mandate that an extension of policy for prior decisions involving necessity defense to cases that involve accused of driving under a suspended license. The court held three points in order to prove necessity in the said context: 1) there is a present and imminent emergency arising without fault on the part of the actor concerned; 2) the emergency is of such a nature as to induce a well-grounded apprehension of death or serious bodily harm if the act is not done; and 3) there is no other reasonable alternative, other than committing the crime, to avoid the threat of harm. Finally, the court saw that based on evidence, the trail judge did error in not allowing the jury to be charged with defense of necessity – as such reversal and a new trial was remanded.
Dissents/Concurrences: Finney and Toal, JJ.. concur. Gregory, C.J., and Littlejohn, Acting Associate Justice, dissenting in separate opinion.
Comments: Given the appellant’s decision to ultimately not drive his wife to the hospital (despite her claimed condition at the time), but to the nearest phone so that someone else more legally capable could – demonstrates that the appellant sought all reasonable alternatives, and they were exhausted. Given the appellants full attempts to comply with the law and his restrictions within, it was in the correct action to see that if the legislature had foreseen such circumstances and exception would have been allotted. Given the evidence of this case, it can be seen as reasonable and correct that the decision to reverse and remand be passed down.