A Florida man was unable to convince a state appeals court that the jury in his felony DUI trial should have been able to consider the defense of necessity when he drunkenly drove his friend’s dying cat to the vet.
On October 30, 2010, Christopher Brooks was stopped after a Hillsborough County sheriff spotted him going 84 mph and veering across lanes of traffic toward the freeway off-ramp. Following the stop, the sheriff determined that Brooks was under the influence and he was arrested. The arrest turned out to be Brooks’ third DUI arrest within a ten year period.
It seems that the reason Brooks was speeding toward the freeway exit was because he was attempting to get his friend’s dying cat to the veterinarian’s office which was located near the freeway exit.
Brooks’ attorneys introduced evidence at trial that, although intoxicated, he was the only person available to take the cat to an all-night veterinarian. However, Hillsborough County Circuit Judge Daniel H. Sleet denied Brooks’ request for a jury instruction on the “defense of necessity.” This was the basis for Brooks’ appeal to the 2nd District Court of Appeal after a jury found him guilty of felony drunk driving.
“Although Mr. Brooks’ defense is unusual, he presented some evidence to support it,’’ said the appeals court opinion, written by Judge Douglas Wallace and joined by judges Morris Silberman and Craig Vilanti. “He was transporting a cat, and the cat was very ill. There is a veterinary clinic near the highway exit where the deputy stopped Mr. Brooks. The cat’s owner and two of his acquaintances were passengers in Mr. Brooks’ car. One of these persons was apparently giving Mr. Brooks directions to the clinic when the deputy stopped Mr. Brooks’ vehicle.”
According to the opinion, the owner pleaded to the sheriff, “My cat is fixing to die!” And the court acknowledged that the cat did, in fact, die during or shortly after the DUI stop.
Notwithstanding the Court of Appeal’s sympathy for Brooks’ predicament, they ruled against him because the defense of necessity applies only to actions meant to “avoid an imminent threat of danger or serious bodily injury to himself or others. We do not interpret the phrase ‘or others’ as applying to animals.