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The Defense of Coercion and Duress

On Behalf of | Feb 12, 2021 | Criminal Defense

Most everyone, lawyers and laypersons, are familiar with the affirmative defense of self-defense.  The defendant is required to submit enough evidence regarding the defense to justify a judge instructing the jury on the elements of self-defense.   When  a person believes force is necessary to protect oneself or another from physical harm, the defendant may claim the defense of self-defense.  Deadly force can only be used to protect against a comparable amount of force.  A lesser-known affirmative defense is coercion or duress.  The US attorney’s Office is concentrating on guns and gang violence, we are seeing opportunities to use this defense in cases where gang members threaten other members of the gang to commit an offense.  The law allows a defendant to claim he only committed the offense to avoid a greater harm.  For example, a person robs a bank because he or a loved one is being threatened with great bodily harm or death unless he commits a crime.  A defendant must establish that (1) he was under threat of imminent threat of great bodily harm; (2) for which he did not negligently place himself in which it is probable that he would have to commit a crime; (3) that the person had no reasonable alternative to violating the law and (4) there is direct evidence the commission of the crime was necessary to avoid the threatened harm.  These elements are demanding.  To avail oneself of this defense, the federal case law makes clear that a defendant must inform law enforcement of the duress at the earliest opportunity.

Mankey Law Office can help you with these or other affirmative defenses in your case.