If I’m Forced to Commit a Crime, Can I Claim Duress?

man in handcuffs with hands on face

Though it may seem like something made up for crime television, instances in which someone has been forced to commit a crime do happen. Unfortunately, victims forced to engage in criminal activity may not know that they can prove duress to help defend themselves from charges. If forced into committing a crime, you may worry about the consequences you can face. After all, if you’re being threatened with death, should you be responsible? Keep reading to learn how the law handles these instances and discover why you need the assistance of Houston criminal defense attorneys to represent you.

What Is Duress?

Duress is an instance in which someone is coerced or forced into doing something they do not want to do. This term is used across a variety of fields of law, such as in estate planning. However, in relation to criminal activity, duress is a defense some use to help absolve them of their involvement in a crime.

Generally, when someone is in danger of death or serious bodily injury from another person if they do not comply with orders, it constitutes duress. For example, if someone holds you at gunpoint and forces you to steal a vehicle, this would constitute duress. This is because you committed a crime but only did so because you feared for your life.

For non-felony cases, you can claim duress if you were compelled by force or threats of force. For example, if your boss threatens to fire you over failing to commit tax fraud on his behalf, this would not constitute duress. However, if he tells you he will have your family killed if you do not commit fraud, this would constitute a threat of force.

How Can You Prove This Defense?

If you were forced to commit a crime under duress, the most important thing you can do to help improve your chances of evading charges is to contact an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible.

To prove duress, four elements must be present:

  • The threat of serious bodily harm or death
  • The threat of harm must be greater than the harm of the act committed
  • The threat must be inescapable
  • The defendant is involved in the situation through no fault of their own

Working with an experienced attorney can help prove these instances. It is important to note that you cannot claim duress if you are threatened but can escape from harm, put yourself in a situation where threats of violence are likely, or commit a serious offense like murder.

At the Gonzalez Law Group, we understand how devastating it can be for an upstanding citizen to be forced into committing a criminal offense. As such, our dedicated legal team is ready to fight for the justice you deserve. Contact us today to learn how we can help you navigate these complex times.