Trying to Save Your Cat Won't Prevent You From Getting a DUI

In the case of Christopher Brooks versus the State of Florida, Mr. Brooks was arrested for DUI while trying to save his cat. The facts are as follows:

At approximately 1 a.m. on October 30, 2010, a Hillsborough County sheriff's deputy clocked Brooks' car travelling at 84 miles per hour in a 55 mile per hour speed zone. The deputy watched as Brooks veered across three lanes of traffic toward a highway exit ramp. After stopping Brooks, the deputy arrested him for DUI. At his trial, Brooks didn't deny that he was driving under the influence of alcohol. His defense instead was that his friend's cat was sick, and Brooks was the only person available who could drive the cat to an all-night veterinary clinic for treatment.

Although Brooks' defense was unusual, he actually presented some evidence to support it including the fact that he was driving a sick cat, and the fact that there was a veterinary clinic near the highway exit where the deputy stopped him. Also, the cat's owner and two of his friends were passengers in Brooks' car. One of those friends was apparently giving Brooks directions to the clinic when the deputy stopped Brooks' car. Additionally, while Brooks explained the unusual circumstances of his late-night driving to the deputy, the cat's owner pleaded, “My cat is fixing to die!” In fact, the cat did die either during or shortly after the deputy stopped Brooks' car.

Brooks was trying to use what the law calls a "necessity defense." That defense consists of the following 5 things:

1. The accused person reasonably believed that his action was necessary to avoid an imminent threat of danger or serious bodily injury to himself or others.

2. The accused individual did not intentionally or recklessly place himself in a situation in which it would be probable that he would be forced to choose to commit a crime.

3. There existed no other adequate means to avoid the threatened harm except to commit a crime.

4. The harm sought to be avoided was more serious than the crime that was committed to avoid it, and

5. The accused person stopped committing the crime as soon as the necessity (or apparent necessity) for it ended.

Unfortunately for Brooks, the court of appeals decided that the words "or others" applies only to humans, and not to animals. Had Brooks been trying to save the life of one of his human passengers rather than of his animal passenger, the appellate court may well have ruled in his favor.

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