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Can a claim of duress help someone fight charges?

On Behalf of | Jun 13, 2024 | Criminal Defense |

Most criminal defense strategies focus on raising questions about someone’s participation in criminal activity. Efforts to exclude evidence or locate alternate suspects can potentially help a criminal defendant establish the reasonable doubt necessary to avoid a criminal conviction. Their lawyer can question the timeline of events, provide a reasonable alibi or raise questions about the accuracy of the state’s evidence.

Other times, the evidence that the state has may be relatively strong. However, the defendant might hope to prove that they did not intend to break the law. An outside party could have effectively forced them into conduct that is illegal. Affirmative defenses can work for people in certain unusual circumstances where another party instigated a situation that led to charges.

Is a claim of duress enough to help someone fight pending criminal charges?

Duress can mitigate criminal intent

Those accused of serious felony offenses typically have an intent to break the law. Proving that criminal intent can be as important as proving someone’s connection to the criminal incident. Those who claim that they acted while under duress hope to convince the courts that they had no intention of breaking the law.

When someone claims to have acted while under duress, they mean that they feared for their safety due to a threat made by another party. There have been many high-profile cases in which claims of duress have played a major role in someone’s criminal defense strategy.

Duress might involve someone driving a getaway vehicle while held at gunpoint by a stranger. Duress could also involve someone committing certain criminal acts because someone threatens their immediate family members. Claims of duress can potentially lead to someone’s acquittal or even the dismissal of pending charges in some cases.

However, the burden of proof in such scenarios falls to the defendant. They need evidence supporting their claim that they truly believed an outside party posed a credible threat. Factors ranging from threatening emails to surveillance camera footage could help someone develop a claim of duress in response to pending criminal charges.

Proving that someone committed a crime not of their own volition, but under the instruction of a third party, can be a complex process. Those in unusual situations often need assistance when putting together a criminal defense strategy to defend against serious felony charges. Proving duress often requires careful preparation before someone goes to trial.

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