Duress in California Criminal Law

202004.07

A lot of people commit crimes such as murder, extortion, and theft because they feel they were driven to do so due to external pressure. Nonetheless, there are genuine cases where individuals commit crimes because they were pushed to the wall and their lives and maybe of others were put in danger. In such cases, duress criminal law can be applied.

What is criminal duress?

Duress is rarely used as a defense. It is always upon the court to determine if a person truly committed a crime as a result of duress or not.

What is criminal duress and how does it work with bail bonds?

In a criminal duress case, the defendant always argues that they were pushed into committing a particular crime. The court also has a right to grant or deny bail in such instances.

If a person requests for a lower bail term, then the court will consider some of the following factors before granting bail terms:

  • The seriousness of the offense
  • Was any person injured, and if so how serious are the injuries?
  • Were weapons or drugs involved?
  • Does the defendant have any criminal record?

It is upon those considerations that the bail bond will be determined for the crime committed. It will also depend on the duress defense team to argue their bail bond plea in a manner that will convince the judge to consider leniency and issue a lower bail amount.

Elements of duress

In duress criminal law, a defendant may have faced an imminent threat of serious harm or death through the actions of another person. In most cases, the threat doesn’t have to be explicitly stated. For example, if a person holding a knife or gun to the defendant, then that will meet the threshold. However, the threat has to happen in the present rather than the past.

Another element is that the defendant’s fear must be reasonable and specific to a particular situation. As such, the judge and jury will examine the evidence presented by the criminal duress defense attorney in an objective manner. If a defendant has a history or timidity and fear in their past interactions, then it will be difficult for the avoid a duress sentence.

Types of duress

There are basically two types of duress namely; economic duress and physical duress. Economic duress is common in commercial contract disputes. It is a situation when one party uses economic pressure to force another party to sign a contract.

Physical duress, on the other hand, is a type of duress that happens when an individual signs a contract after being physically threatened. The physical threat may include causing bodily harm to them or any member of their family.

Difference between duress and necessity

Some people tend to confuse the defense of duress and the defense of necessity. Although both of them are based on the defendant being forced to commit a crime, there are several things distinguish duress and necessity.

Duress in American law refers to a crime commuted by a person as a result of pressure or threat to their life.

Duress defense means that a person committed a crime because they were directly forced to do it. On the other hand, necessity crime involves a choice between two evils (that could be avoided) emanating from a situation rather than the actions of a specific individual.

What evidence is needed for defense duress?

Duress in American law requires that sufficient evidence is provided to prove that a serious threat was committed to an individual or their family. Evidence can be presented in the form of statements from witnesses and testimonials. Both the judge and the jury will examine the evidence before deciding whether to issue a duress sentence or not.