Being Forced to Commit a Crime: Understanding the Defense of Duress

Unfortunately, for some people, there are instances where they find themselves forced into committing a crime. Not only can this traumatize someone and jeopardize their life, it also can create a situation that significantly complicates legal proceedings. Being forced to commit a crime, often under the threat of death or bodily harm, is a complex issue that requires careful legal examination by an experienced attorney. It’s important to note that the law recognizes such situations under the defense of duress.

The Concept of Duress in Criminal Law

Duress, in criminal law, refers to circumstances where a person commits a crime because they were coerced or threatened with immediate danger to their life or physical well-being. This coercion typically involves the threat of death or serious bodily harm, compelling the individual to commit the crime against their will. 

What is an affirmative defense?

Claiming that you committed a crime because you were under duress falls under the term ‘affirmative defense.’ 

An affirmative defense introduces new facts or points not originally mentioned in the Complaint. These new elements, if proven accurate, provide a legal basis for why the plaintiff should not prevail or should receive less than they are seeking. This type of defense doesn’t contradict the plaintiff’s claims about your actions; instead, it offers additional context that could legally justify or mitigate them.

The Legal Criteria for a Duress Defense

For the defense of duress to be valid, certain criteria must be met. These include proving that there was an immediate threat of death or serious bodily harm, a well-grounded fear that the threat will be carried out, and no reasonable opportunity to escape the threat other than by committing the crime. It’s important to note that the threat must be of such intensity that it could coerce a reasonable person into committing the crime under similar circumstances.

The Challenge in Proving Duress

Proving duress in a court of law can be challenging. The burden of proof lies with the defendant to demonstrate that they were indeed under significant threat at the time of committing the crime. Detailed evidence, including witness testimonies and any relevant documentation, is crucial in substantiating the defense of duress. An experienced attorney will know how to build a strong case, highlighting the lack of free will in the defendant’s actions.

The Role of an Experienced Attorney

Facing criminal charges under such extreme circumstances necessitates the expertise of an experienced attorney in criminal defense. An attorney skilled in criminal law can effectively navigate the complexities of a case involving duress. They will meticulously gather and present evidence to support the claim of being forced to commit the crime, arguing that the defendant’s actions were a direct result of being under duress.

Being forced to commit a crime is a serious and complex issue in criminal law. It places the individual in a harrowing dilemma between facing immediate harm or violating the law. The defense of duress recognizes the reality of these situations, offering a legal pathway for those unjustly coerced into criminal activities. However, successfully arguing this defense requires the skill and knowledge of an experienced criminal defense attorney. It’s a reminder of the critical importance of legal representation in navigating the intricacies of criminal law and ensuring justice is served.