What Does it Mean to Commit a Crime Under Duress? 

 April 6, 2015

By  LMW Attorneys

There are a few circumstances in which one may not be charged for a crime he or she has committed. One of these instances is when a person commits a crime under duress, meaning under threat or use of force from another person.

In these situations, the outside threat is strong enough to overcome the defendant’s free will, thus causing him or her to commit the crime.

Need Legal Help in Port Richey, FL? Call (727) 478-4125 or
Schedule Your Free Legal Consultation by phone or at our office

What is Considered Acting Under Duress?

In order for one to claim duress in a defense, the following factors must exist:

– There must be a threat of murder or severe harm from another human being imposed on the defendant or someone particularly close to the defendant, such as a close relative.

– The threat being imposed on the defendant must be greater than the harm caused by committing the criminal act.

– The defendant must believe the threat was real.

– The threat of harm must be present, imminent, and impending when the defendant commits the crime, meaning harm would come immediately if he or she did not act.

– The defendant must have no reasonable means of escaping the threat other than committing the crime.

– The defendant is not at fault for exposing his or her self to the duress.

A person may also raise a duress defense when force or violence is used to make him or her to enter into a contract.

Murder Under Duress

The court generally will not weigh a life for a life. If the defendant has committed murder — even while being threatened with death by another person — he or she will not be able to use duress as a defense.

There are two main justifications for this rule. First, the court holds that the moral choice between the defendant’s life and the innocent victim’s life requires the defendant to sacrifice his or her own life. Secondly, some situations fall under the “immunization of terrorists” justification. An example of this would be when a member of a gang is forced to kill someone by other gang members. While it may be true that the defendant in this case would have been killed for not committing the murder, a court will not recognize this as a defense.

When to Call a Lawyer

If you have been accused of a crime you committed while acting under duress, contact Laporte, Mulligan & Werner-Watkins, P.A. today. A criminal defense attorney can help you build your duress defense to fight the criminal charges you are facing. Call us today at 727-478-4125 for a free consultation.