Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Nelson v. State case brief

Nelson v. State case brief summary
597 P.2d 977

SYNOPSIS: Defendant sought review of a decision of the Superior Court of the State of Alaska, Fourth Judicial District that affirmed his conviction, by a trial court, for reckless destruction of personal property in violation of Alaska Stat. § 11.20.515(b), and joyriding in violation of Alaska Stat. § 28.35.010. The trial court declined to give the requested instruction on the defense of necessity.

FACTS:
-Defendant's truck became bogged down in a marshy area off a highway.
-After unsuccessfully attempting to free the truck and after waiting hours for assistance, defendant and his companions took a front-end loader and a dump truck from a highway department yard where heavy equipment was parked.
-While being used by defendant, both the dump truck and the front-end loader sustained considerable damage.

ISSUE:
The sole question on appeal, was whether the jury was properly instructed on the defense of necessity.

ARGUMENT:
Defendant argued that the instruction given was erroneous because it allowed the jury to apply an "objective, after-the-fact" test of need and emergency, rather than a "subjective, reasonable man" test.

HOLDING:
The court found, however, that any error in the wording of the instruction was harmless because defendant failed to make out a case for the necessity defense, which could be raised only if defendant's actions although violative of the law, were necessary to prevent an even greater harm.

ANALYSIS:
Here, the "greater harm," was potential damage to defendant's truck and the court found no justification for the appropriation of sophisticated and expensive equipment.

OUTCOME: The court affirmed defendant's convictions for reckless destruction of personal property and for joyriding.

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