Can You Argue Duress In Your Criminal Case?

Posted on: 30 April 2016

In most instances, people are held accountable for their own actions when a crime is committed. However, if the person committing the crime was compelled to act by another, there is a possible defense that could be used to justify the act. If you are facing criminal charges and plan to use duress as a defense, it is important you understand the strategy and its requirements. 

What Is the Duress Defense?

The duress defense basically states that you were compelled to commit a criminal act by another person under the threat of physical harm. Duress also applies to cases in which economic harm is threatened. 

In order for you to use the duress defense, your case has to meet certain requirements. If those requirements are not met, it is likely that your criminal defense attorney will recommend a different defense. 

Arguing the duress defense is not always an option. Whether or not you can depends largely on the crime that was committed. Murder is usually not excusable with this defense. 

What Are the Requirements?

There are several requirements to meet for the duress strategy, including a credible threat of violence or financial harm. For instance, if another person threatened to kill you if you did not rob a store, it might be considered duress. 

The threat does not have to be limited to just you. If a family member, friend, or other third party were threatened, you could also claim duress. 

In addition to a threat of harm, you also need to prove that you genuinely believed the threat. If there is a history of abuse between you and the other person, you could point to it as the reason that you believed that harm against you was possible. 

You also have to prove that the threat was continuous and was active at the time that you committed the crime. If the threat was made a week before you actually acted, you might have trouble arguing the duress defense. 

The threat has to be active because the next requirement is that there must not be an available escape route. If the threat were made a week prior to the crime being committed, you most likely had an opportunity to escape, get help, and avoid committing the crime. 

Your attorney can help you determine whether or not arguing duress is the right move in your case. If not, he or she can help you find the right strategy to defend yourself. Contact professionals such as the Law Offices Of Jerald Silvia for more information.