Duress


Fundamentals of Criminal Law

Adam J. McKee, Ph.D.

Jack Brown, Ph.D.


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The underlying logic of the defense of duress is very similar to the choice of evils defense.   With a choice of evils defense, the requisite chose is brought on by nature, an act of God or other circumstances outside of the defendant’s control.  With duress, the choice of evils is deliberately brought on by another individual.  

Duress means that you were forced to do something. Duress works as a defense under the theory that if someone forced you to commit a criminal act, then the guilty mind was theirs and not yours. Under Arkansas law, for example, it is an affirmative defense “that the actor engaged in the conduct charged … because he reasonably believed he was compelled to do so by the threat or use of unlawful force against his person or the person of another that a person of ordinary firmness in the actor’s situation would not have resisted.” The statute stipulates that the defense is not available in circumstances where actors put themselves recklessly in a situation where the duress was reasonably foreseeable.

Modification History

File Created:  07/17/2018

Last Modified:  07/17/2018

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This work is licensed under an Open Educational Resource-Quality Master Source (OER-QMS) License.

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