One of the most commonly used criminal defenses is the defense of duress. The term "duress" is defined as coercion through the use of force or the threat of violence. Duress is used as a criminal defense when an individual has committed a crime in order to escape physical or emotional harm or injury.
An individual who can prove that they committed a crime under duress may not be held liable for the criminal activity in which they have taken part. However, there are various factors that must be satisfied in order for a defense of duress to be adequate and effective.
In order for an offender to successfully utilize the defense that they were under duress, they must have been exposed to the threat or the possibility of severe physical injury or death. The threat of injury that they are being subjected to must be more severe than the damage that they cause as a result of their criminal activity.
In order for the defense of duress to be acceptable, the threatened harm that the offender was experiencing must have been present at the time of the crime and there must have been no other effective way of escaping the threat at the time. Also, it is essential that the offender was not criminally responsible in the situation in which they became involved.
Therefore, if the defendant took part in some form of illegal activity or behavior that resulted in him experiencing the threat of violence from another individual, the defense that the crime was committed under duress would not be successful.
There are various different ways that an individual may be under duress and there are a variety of crimes that an individual may commit while they are under duress. Duress is often a common defense for individuals who are responsible for violating or breaking a contract.
If the defendant was coerced into signing a contract through the use of force or through the threat of violence, then the contract may be ruled null and void. As such, the defendant cannot be charged with a crime and will not receive legal repercussions for violating the contract.
However, duress is generally not considered to be an effective defense for murder. If a defendant can prove that they were responsible for a homicide only because they were under duress, then the charges that they face may be decreased to manslaughter, but they will still be held liable for their crimes.
When an individual is experiencing duress they may be subjected to threats against their physical well-being, threats against their property and their belongings, or threats against their family's health and well-being.
In most courts throughout the United States, a prisoner who successfully escapes prison may effectively use the defense of duress. A convict who was suffering from threats of severe physical injury or death in the prison in which they were serving their sentence may have believed that escaping the correctional facility was the only option that they had to maintain their health and well-being.
If the convict turns themselves in to the proper authorities and they can prove that they had no other option and that the authorities in the prison did nothing to protect them from the immediate danger that they were facing, then the escape may not be punished. In instances such as this, the convict will be transferred to another prison to complete their sentence, but will not be given a longer or more severe punishment as a result of their escape.
A defense attorney may utilize the duress defense in order to attempt to justify a wide range of criminal activities. However, it is important to keep in mind that the defense of duress is risky because the defendant is admitting that they did take part in the crime of which they are being accused