When you face criminal charges, there are many ways you can respond to those charges. Your official response in court is a plea. You probably know about the standard pleas of guilty, not guilty and no contest. However, there is a range of defense options that you can use in your plea. One of these is the necessity defense.
According to Pacific Standard, the necessity defense is when you commit an act that breaks the law but is morally justifiable. This is comparable to self-defense. In that situation, you caused bodily harm to someone else, but it is justifiable because if you did not act, then the other person would have hurt you. In the case of the necessity defense, it is most often put into use for cases that involve protecting the environment.
Unlike self-defense, the necessity defense is for non-violent crimes. You may use this defense when you feel a law is immoral and will cause more harm than good. However, the law in question will not usually require any violent act on your part to defy. For example, if it is illegal to feed birds outside your home, but you realize that by not feeding them, the birds are starving to death, so you feed them, then you are breaking the law. However, you did so out of a moral duty to care for another living thing.
When you use the necessity defense, the judge and jury, if you have one in your case, can look at the morality of the situation you were in at the time of your actions. It enables them to think beyond the legal circumstances and the law to a more human aspect.