Wyatt Hardy, PLC

Criminal, Family and Probate Law

Wyatt Hardy, PLC

Criminal, Family and Probate Law


Protecting Clients’ Rights. Working To Solve Problems.

How can you prove you were forced to commit a crime?

On Behalf of | Jul 11, 2024 | Criminal Defense

Fear and the need to defend yourself and others from harm are instinctive. Unfortunately, some people exploit those instincts. If someone coerces you to commit a crime, duress may be your best defense.

In a duress defense, you can show that someone forced you to commit a crime by using violence or threats. Criminal duress often appears in movies. For example, a person held at gunpoint is forced to take part in a robbery. Another is a parent forced to sell an illegal drug after threats against their child’s life.

Knowing what counts as duress is the first step in building your defense. Understanding when you can use it comes next.

Duress vs. necessity

Duress isn’t the only defense for cases where a person commits a crime to avoid harm. Necessity also fits the bill. People often confuse it with duress. What sets them apart are the circumstances.

To prove duress, it must involve:

  • Immediate danger of death or serious bodily harm
  • An inescapable or unavoidable threat greater than the harm caused by the crime
  • Well-grounded fear that another person will carry out the threat
  • A defendant who got involved through no fault of their own

On the other hand, you can make a case for necessity if:

  • The crime is committed to prevent greater harm
  • The defendant had a reasonable belief of an immediate and specific threat
  • There was no reasonable alternative available besides committing the crime
  • The situation is a result of urgent circumstances, not the actions of a specific person

As affirmative defenses, you must present evidence for each element.

Is duress a legitimate defense for serious crimes like murder?

In most states, the answer is “no.” But states such as Arkansas and Connecticut, for example, allow a duress defense for all classifications of murder.

Nevada is another state that allows a duress defense, but only for non-death penalty cases.

If you have legal counsel, you’ll want to ask whether duress can reduce your sentence or help you avoid criminal penalties altogether.

Being forced into committing a crime is anyone’s nightmare. It happens in situations out of your control. Understanding what constitutes a legal defense from unjust criminal charges is vital to waking up from it.