Say one had a pregnant wife that was going into labor: I've already called for an ambulance, However: They are far away from reaching me. So in order to reach them faster: We jump into a car and drive towards to meet them. Now here is the thing: If I consider it to be a safe move: Can I speed over the limits without getting a ticket, or perhaps get a reduced ticket?

And this could also be a scenario: If I approach a red light: Can I drive slowly into the crossing while honking and flashing the hazard lights?


I'd like to know how this works all around the world. So one answer for each continent would be perfect.

  • 4
    "One answer per continent" is much too few; most continents contain multiple jurisdictions which may have completely different laws. But in many jurisdictions you may be able to claim a "necessity defense". – Nate Eldredge Sep 3 '15 at 13:18
  • 1
    You asked "is it legal". Better to ask "should I do it". It's your decision whether you want to do something illegal, weighing up the risks and consequences of doing it or not doing it. Going past a red light with traffic has a good chance that your wife gets to the hospital a lot later, and in a worse condition, apart from the risk to everyone else. Different from a red light on an empty road at night where your risk is a ticket. If you feel "honking and flashing hazard lights" is needed then don't do it. – gnasher729 Apr 18 '16 at 13:17

The answer across the USA is that no, you are not indemnified against getting a speeding ticket or perhaps a reckless driving charge.

HOWEVER: In the mitigating circumstance of a medical emergency, if police did stop you they would most likely decline to give you a citation. If they did cite you, then a judge would most likely consider the extenuating circumstances.

The difficulty with your premise is that average people who are put into situations like this often make very poor decisions that endanger themselves and others. The last thing that the ambulance crew wants to do is extricate your in-labor passenger from your wrecked car before they can continue the transport.

  • Shrug This is why you should be able to demand trial by jury for traffic citations. While the lay may well read this way the jury is even less likely to accept a citation here than a judge. – Joshua Mar 4 '16 at 5:09

In Brazil yes, your ticket may be canceled (another link) (sorry, all links in this question are in Portuguese only), even though traffic laws are state-wide and ticket appeals granted can be as low as 20%(in some states).

A little bit of extra context. In Brazil most of the speeding tickets are given by eletronic means, without the driver being stopped by traffic authority personnel. That means you'll receive the ticket a few days/weeks/months later on your house containing all evidences (a picture of the car, the place and time when the violation occured, etc). You'll have to appeal showing evidences (like a statement from the hospital containing date and name of person in emergency) that confirm you were in a medical emergency situation. If evidence is real (confirmed by the hospital, for instance) chances are high that your appeal would be granted and the ticket nullified.

In Wisconsin, you could try to claim necessity if you were speeding due to a medical emergency:

Pressure of natural physical forces which causes the actor reasonably to believe that his or her act is the only means of preventing imminent public disaster, or imminent death or great bodily harm to the actor or another and which causes him or her so to act, is a defense to a prosecution for any crime based on that act, except that if the prosecution is for first-degree intentional homicide, the degree of the crime is reduced to 2nd-degree intentional homicide.

However, this might or might not work. Speeding is not technically a crime; it's a civil forfeiture. The 1982 Wisconsin Supreme Court case State v. Brown held:

We need not and we do not decide whether a defense of legal justification is available to the defendant in a civil forfeiture action for speeding if the causative force is someone or something other than a law enforcement officer. We decide only that a defendant in a civil forfeiture action for speeding may claim that his violation of the law should be excused if it was caused by the state itself through the actions of a law enforcement officer.

So, if you made such an argument, the courts would have to decide whether to accept it. In the above case, two justices out of the six who heard the case said in a concurring opinion that "the public interest in highway safety and the expeditious enforcement of traffic laws outweighs an individual defendant's interests of a personal nature in any other circumstances." (I strongly disagree with characterizing the avoidance of imminent great bodily harm or death as a mere "interest of a personal nature", but they said what they said.)

Also, in the case of a woman in normal labor, it's not clear that there will be "imminent death or great bodily harm" if you don't speed. Your belief that speeding is the only means to prevent this must be "reasonable" given the circumstances, or necessity would not apply even if the courts decided that this defense could apply to speeding.

  • Speeding itself isn't a crime, is it? So I guess the cited provision will only apply if an actual crime has been committed as the result of speeding e.g. somebody got killed. – Greendrake Dec 8 at 3:55
  • @Greendrake 939.12 says: " A crime is conduct which is prohibited by state law and punishable by fine or imprisonment or both. Conduct punishable only by a forfeiture is not a crime." And 346.60 says the punishment for speeding is a forfeiture. So, a strict reading might indicate you are correct, but... – D M Dec 8 at 12:18
  • @Greendrake ... see State v. Brown which held "We need not and we do not decide whether a defense of legal justification is available to the defendant in a civil forfeiture action for speeding if the causative force is someone or something other than a law enforcement officer. We decide only that a defendant in a civil forfeiture action for speeding may claim that his violation of the law should be excused if it was caused by the state itself through the actions of a law enforcement officer." – D M Dec 8 at 12:23
  • So, the question is actually explicitly undecided. I'll edit my answer later today when I have time. – D M Dec 8 at 12:26

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