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Duress or Coercion as a Defense


It is possible to claim duress or Coercion as a Defense if you have committed a crime as a result of someone coercing you into the act because you or someone else was threatened with physical harm or violence.

What is duress?

Duress is defined in criminal law as the situation in which the defendant was forced to break the law under threat that the defendant or someone they know will be harmed. Duress can only be used as a defense if the following conditions are fulfilled:

  • The defendant is threatened, or genuinely believes they were threatened with harm, like assault for instance.
  • The crime must be specified by the one who made the threat.
  • Threat of immediate death or serious injury.
  • A reasonable person in the same situation as the defendant would not have been able to resist the coercion.
  • The defendant would not have committed the crime if it were not for the threat.
  • The act is a crime.
  • The situation should not be the result of the defendant’s doing. For example, being involved in violent gangs or criminal activities.
  • Duress only counts if the person could have avoided the effects of duress without hurting themselves or others.

When duress is not applicable

  • Duress cannot be claimed if the crime was murder or attempted murder.
  • Crimes of treason.
  • Being involved or a member of criminal organizations or violent gangs.
  • Defendant is a member of a terrorist organization.

Please discuss your case with a Las Vegas lawyer to see if claiming duress is the best possible course of action for you.

Why duress can be used as a defense

Defendants who claim duress means that while they admit that they broke the law, they should not be held liable because they would only have committed the crime due to extreme unlawful pressure.

If the claim of duress is upheld, it is very likely that the charges against the defendant will be dropped or reduced. However, by claiming duress, the defendant will admit to committing the crime, so if their defense was not accepted, they will be held liable for the crime. The defendant also bears the burden of introducing evidence of duress to the court.

What counts as duress?

The following lists examples of duress:

    • Forced to commit perjury because the defendant’s family was threatened with harm if they spoke the truth.
    • The defendant was a member of a non-violent gang, but was threatened by their gang when they tried to leave the group.

For more information about Coercion as a defense, contact a criminal defense attorney.


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