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People v. Unger

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    Bloomberg Law

    Citation. 66 III. 2d 333

    Brief Fact Summary. The Defendant, Francis Unger (Defendant), escaped from a minimum security prison after he had been threatened by fellow inmates.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law. The defense of necessity is available to prison escape situations where the prisoner is choosing to break the law to avoid a greater evil.


    Facts. After serving time at a state penitentiary, the Defendant was transferred to the prison’s minimum security honor farm. Prior to his transfer, he had been threatened by an inmate brandishing a six-inch knife in an attempt to coerce the Defendant to engage in homosexual activities. The defendant did not report the incident to authorities for fear of reprisal. After his transfer, the Defendant was assaulted and sexually molested by three inmates. He was also threatened with death for allegedly reporting the incident to prison authorities. Eventually, the Defendant escaped with the intention of returning when he found someone to help him.

    Issue. Did the Defendant introduce sufficient evidence to support the affirmative defense of necessity?

    Held. Yes. In prison escape situations, the defense of necessity shall be submitted to a jury where five conditions have been met: (1) the prisoner is faced with a specific threat of death, forcible sexual attack, or substantial bodily injury in the immediate future; (2) there is no time to complain to authorities or a history of futile complaints; (3) there is no time or opportunity to resort to the courts; (4) there is no evidence of violence against prison personnel or other innocent people in the escape; and (5) the prisoner reports to the authorities once he has reached a position of safety. The Defendant set forth sufficient evidence to establish these elements of the defense of necessity.


    Discussion. Necessity is an available defense in prison escape situations, provided all of the elements of the defense are proved.


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