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What is a duress defense? 

On Behalf of | Nov 10, 2023 | Criminal Defense

Those who are facing criminal accusations may claim that they did not want to break the law. They were under duress. Someone or something else was pressuring them, and they felt that they had no choice.

A potential example of this is if someone is threatened with physical harm. Say that a woman works at a company where she manages financial accounts. An acquaintance of hers threatens to harm her or her family unless she embezzles $10,000 from the company and hands it over. The woman may later be arrested for theft or embezzlement, but she would claim that it was actually the other party’s fault because she was under duress the entire time.

Does this defense work?

This defense can be used in some cases, usually when the threat of harm is imminent. For instance, if the threat to the woman’s life in the above example was made in person, and she could clearly see that the other person had a weapon on them, then she could claim that she honestly feared for her own life and simply did what was necessary to protect herself and her family.

But what if the threat was made over the phone or via email? In a case like that, this defense would probably prove less effective because it could be argued that the woman should have contacted the police. She wouldn’t actually have needed to embezzle the money in order to keep herself safe. But even this can be something of a gray area, as every case is unique.

Regardless of the criminal charges that someone is facing, it’s very important for them to know about all of the potential defense options at their disposal.