Thursday, November 21, 2013

State v. Warshow case brief

State v. Warshow case brief summary
410 A.2d 1000 (1980)

The District Court, Unit No. 6, Windham Circuit (Vermont) convicted defendants of unlawful trespass. They sought review.

Defendants were part of a group of demonstrators that protested at a nuclear power plant. They were arrested after they refused to leave the private premises of the power plant. They claimed that the lower court erred by refusing their proffered defense of necessity.


  • The court rejected this claim and affirmed their convictions. 
  • The court found that the defense of necessity required an imminent emergency that presented no reasonable opportunity to avoid the injury without doing the criminal act. 
  • The defense also required that the injury from the emergency out-measured the criminal wrong. 
  • The court held that defendants failed to establish an emergency of an imminent nature. 
  • The court found that the low-level radiation and nuclear waste that defendants were protesting was not the type of imminent danger classified as an emergency sufficient to justify criminal activity. 
  • In addition, because the long-range risks and dangers cited by defendants did not presently threaten health and safety, the court found that the danger was not imminent. 
  • The court also found that the specter of nuclear accident did not fulfill the imminent and compelling harm element of this defense.

The court affirmed defendants' convictions of unlawful trespass.

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