Have you ever heard of the term “duress”? Duress refers to a situation in which a person performs an act as a result of violence, threat or some other pressure from an individual. Often, the act one is being pressured to do is unlawful.
A defendant may use duress as a defense in court. In doing so, the defendant admits to breaking the law, but claims he or she is not liable for the crime because it was performed under an unlawful threat of harm from another person.
Components of a Duress Defense
The following components must be present for one to claim duress in his or her defense:
– There must be a threat of death or severe harm from another human being imposed on the defendant or somebody close to the defendant, such as a relative.
– The threat of harm exerted on the defendant must be greater than the harm the defendant caused by committing the act he or she was forced to commit.
– The defendant must believe the threat was real.
– The threat of danger must be imminent at the time of the crime; meaning harm would come immediately if the defendant 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 herself to the duress.
When Duress Is Used In Murder
Duress usually cannot be used as a defense for murder. This typically does not weigh a life for a life. If a defendant commits murder, even while under the threat of death from another person, duress will not likely be deemed a reasonable defense because the court holds sacrificing another’s life over their own as a moral choice.
The court also will not recognize a duress defense when the case falls under the “immunization of terrorists” justification. An example of this would be when a member of a gang or cult is forced to kill someone by his or her peers. While the defendant may have been under threat of death for not committing the murder, he or she would have a duress defense in court.
When to Hire an Attorney
If you have been charged with a crime and feel you have a justifiable duress defense, contact Khonsari Law Group today. A criminal defense attorney can help you build evidence to support your defense and will fight the criminal charges you are facing. Call now for a free consultation.