Duress as a Defense in Criminal Law
In criminal law, a defendant’s actions can sometimes be excused if they can establish Duress/Coercion as a Defense to Criminal Charges in New Jersey. This defense may apply where a threat or actual physical force caused you to commit a crime. Consider a situation where someone threatens physical harm or holds a gun to your head and forces you to break the law.
In this post, we study the use of duress as a defense to a criminal charge. Consult an experiencedNew Jersey Criminal Defense Lawyer if you have been accused of a crime in the State of New Jersey.
What Is Duress?
N.J.S.A. 2C:2-9 defines duress as an affirmative defense to a crime which the defendant committed because another person coerced them to do so by using or threatening to use unlawful force against them or someone they know. For duress to be a valid defense to a charge, the defendant must prove that a reasonable person would not have been able to resist if placed in the same situation.
You and your attorney can operate on the principle that, although you did break the law, you had no choice but to do so.
What Does Coercion Mean?
Coercion, also called criminal coercion, is defined underN.J.S.A. 2C:13-5 as unlawfully restricting a person’s freedom to engage or refrain from engaging in contact through various means. There are more than nine scenarios covered by criminal coercion, some of which include when the perpetrator threatens to do the following:
- Inflict bodily injury on you or another person
- Expose a secret that could subject you to ridicule or hatred
- Take or withhold action as a person of authority.
Like duress, criminal coercion can be used as a defense in a criminal case. You will need to discuss its applicability to your situation with your attorney.
Requirements for Using the Duress Defense
In order to use the defense of duress, a defendant should consider raising certain facts such as:
- Fearful that the perpetrator would actually harm you
- In immediate danger that could have resulted in serious bodily harm or death
- Unaware of any reasonable way to avoid harm than to commit the illegal act
Because duress as a defense is used to justify an illegal act, the prosecutor has the burden to disprove the defense beyond a reasonable doubt.
It is crucial to note that you may raise duress as a defense in some cases but not in others. For example, you may not raise duress as a defense if you recklessly or negligently placed yourself in a position to be coerced. Also, if you are being prosecuted for murder, you can only raise duress to reduce the degree of the crime to manslaughter.
Consult a New Jersey Criminal Defense Attorney Today
Matthew V. Portella, an experienced New Jersey Criminal Defense Lawyer, has been defending the rights of individuals charged with crimes and offenses in New Jersey for over 25 years. He handles every case personally and customizes his approach to fit the facts of your case.
If you have been accused of committing a crime and believe you could benefit from Duress/Coercion as a Defense to Criminal Charges in New Jersey, contact attorney Matthew V. Portella today at 856-245-5911 to schedule a consultation.