If you are accused of a crime, you may be wondering if you have any legal defenses that could help you avoid conviction. One possible defense is duress, which means that you were forced to commit a crime under the threat or use of physical force by someone else. That being said, you should understand that duress is not a simple or easy defense to prove, and it has many limitations. Read on and reach out to a seasoned Red Bluff criminal lawyer from Cohen Criminal Law to learn more about what duress is, how it works, and when it applies. Here are some of the questions you may have:
Can a duress defense work if I was forced to commit a crime?
Duress is a type of affirmative defense, which means that you admit to committing the act, but you claim that you had a valid excuse for doing so. Duress is also known as coercion or compulsion. The basic idea behind duress is that you acted against your will because someone else threatened you with harm or death if you did not comply. To successfully raise a duress defense, you must prove the following elements:
- There was an immediate threat of death or serious bodily injury to you or someone else.
- You had a well-grounded fear that the threat would be carried out.
- You had no reasonable opportunity to escape or avoid the threat.
- You were not at fault for creating or being in the situation that led to the threat.
These elements are based on an objective standard, which means that the judge and jury will evaluate your actions and beliefs according to what a reasonable person in your situation would have done or felt. If your fear was exaggerated, irrational, or otherwise not believable, or if you had a chance to get away or report the threat, then your duress defense may fail.
When does duress apply?
Duress can apply to many different types of crimes, such as theft, robbery, assault, kidnapping, or forgery. However, duress has some important limitations and exceptions that you should be aware of.
First, duress is generally not a defense to murder or other serious crimes that involve harming or killing another person. The law does not allow you to sacrifice someone else’s life to save your own. However, some states may reduce the crime from murder to manslaughter if you acted under duress.
Second, duress does not apply if you voluntarily associated yourself with a criminal group or activity that exposed you to the threat. For instance, if you joined a gang or participated in a robbery plan, then you cannot claim duress later if things went wrong.
Third, duress does not apply if the threat came from a law enforcement officer who was lawfully performing their duties. For example, if a police officer ordered you to stop or surrender, then you cannot claim duress if you resisted.
If you have further questions, or you believe you have a valid duress defense, please don’t hesitate to reach out to Cohen Criminal Law for help today.