Though it seems like a made-up defense for a bad decision, the idea that someone can be forced into committing a crime is all too real. There are laws surrounding when someone can be held liable if they are coerced or forced into committing illegal activity. As such, if you were threatened into committing a crime, you may be able to claim duress. Keep reading to learn more about this defense and why you need the assistance of an experienced Cobb County criminal defense lawyer to help.
What Is Duress?
Duress is a term that describes forcing, threatening, or coercing someone into doing something they do not want to do. As such, the victim is not acting of their own volition or free will. In Georgia, the laws that help dictate duress are referred to as coercion laws.
For example, if someone holds a gun to your head and instructs you to steal a vehicle, it would be hard to prove that you are criminally responsible. After all, your only option was to steal the car or face potential death for refusing.
What Elements Must Be Present for This Defense?
To prove duress or coercion, there must be four elements present. First, it must be proven that there was an immediate threat of death or severe bodily harm. The victim must have a reasonable fear that the threat will be carried out. It must also be proven that there was no opportunity for escape other than complying with the demands of the aggressor. Generally, if any reasonable person would have gone along with the demands for fear of their safety with no alternatives, it constitutes coercion.
For example, if you are chased out of a bar by someone looking to hit you with a bar stool, getting in your car under the influence to escape would not be reason enough to commit driving under the influence, as there were other reasonable alternatives for escape. However, if someone threatens to kill you with a butcher’s knife if you don’t help them rob the convenience store you’re in, you may have no other alternative but to go along with the aggressor’s crime.
What Should I Do if I Was Forced to Commit a Crime?
If forced to commit a crime, knowing what you must do after is essential. The most important thing is to contact an experienced attorney as soon as possible.
It is difficult for many to cope with the fact they committed a crime, even if they were forced into it. As such, being convicted even though you were under duress during the event can be even more devastating. As such, the dedicated team at the Miller Law Practice is ready to help. We will do everything possible to fight for the best possible outcome for your circumstances. Contact us today to discuss the details of your case with a member of our legal team.