State v. Templeton, COA23-443, ___ N.C. App. ___ (Mar. 19, 2024)

In this Onslow County case, defendant appealed his convictions for felony fleeing to elude arrest and speeding in excess of 80 mph, arguing error in denying his request for an instruction on necessity as a defense. The Court of Appeals found no error. 

In September of 2021, defendant led officers of the Onslow County Sheriff's Office on a high speed chase on his motorcycle. When defendant came for trial, he testified that he had been threatened earlier in the day by members of a motorcycle gang, justifying his actions. During the charge conference, defense counsel requested an instruction on the defense of necessity, but the trial court denied this request, explaining that defendant failed to demonstrate that he had no other acceptable choices.  

Taking up defendant’s appeal, the Court of Appeals explained that the defense of necessity required defendant to establish (1) his action was reasonable, (2) it was taken to protect life, limb, or health of a person, and (3) no other acceptable choices were available. The court found that defendant did not demonstrate reasonableness as defendant’s long flight from law enforcement provided “ample time and opportunity to realize the vehicles pursuing him were law enforcement.” Slip Op. at 5. Likewise, the court faulted defendant for not noticing the vehicles chasing him were law enforcement vehicles, not motorcycles. The court found defendant presented no evidence on “the lack of acceptable alternatives or the reasonableness of his actions.” Id. at 7. As a result, the defense of necessity was not applicable.