WHEN CAN DURESS OR THREATS BE USED AS A DEFENSE IN A CRIMINAL CASE?

The duress or threats defense can be used when a person threatens another person to do something to them or a family member (typically some sort of physical violence) if they do not commit a crime. Usually the threats must be real and an ordinary person would have to believe that if they did not comply, then they or a person close to them would be in immediately danger. For example if a person held a gun to another person’s head while they were driving a car and told them to run from the police, then this defense could be used to defend the driver from an evading charge.

The typical case on this is, if you know much about it — the Patty Hearst situation — where she was kidnapped and then forced, according to her — to become involved in a bunch of bank robberies.  This would be an example of duress or threat defense where somebody has been threatened and their life has been threatened if they don’t participate in some sort of a crime.  Obviously, if you would prove this and to an average juror or person it made sense and they believed that you had been threatened and that you realistically scared, then you could use it as a defense in a criminal case in Los Angeles.

Common Sense and Reasonableness

The key as in most things in life and specifically in criminal defense, is common sense and reasonableness.  In other words, if you look at the facts and it makes sense.  You have this person who would have never committed this crime but for being scared to death because something threatened them, then obviously that makes sense and you could use it as a defense.

To evaluate this type of a scenario because it really doesn’t come up very much, you have to sit down with an attorney who has handled criminal cases in LA has experience and knows how to win.  I’ve been doing this for a long time.  I know what it takes to win a criminal case because I’ve done so many jury trials.  I’ve seen what the jurors are talking about and reflecting on after the case.  So, we’re able to pinpoint before the case what the issues are going to be.

So, in a threat or duress defense case we’re going to look at the entire case in its totality.  We’re going to talk to you about it, obviously.  We’re going to look at whatever evidence the prosecutors are going to put on and then we’re going to really evaluate whether a jury would believe our defense.  And if they would and you’re not guilty of the crime and you didn’t intend to commit the crime and you truly were coerced and in a duress situation at the time you committee the crime, then we’re likely going to be successful in the defense.

All things in criminal defense are not an exact science because you’re talking about twelve jurors — twelve member of the community that you’ve never met before.  You can’t creep into their minds and see how they might evaluate a situation where you’re claiming duress, so you have to use experience.  You have to use common sense.  What makes sense to you and what makes sense under the circumstances when it comes to these defense/threat defense cases.

Threat Has To Be Credible

There’s going to be a jury instruction that’s going to be given to the jurors after the case with the law on the crimes that you’re committed with and also the law on this defense of duress or threat, and obviously the threat is going to have to be credible — a reasonable person will have to believe that it was a legitimate threat and then anything that you do — any force that you use or any actions that you take — are going to have to be justified under the circumstances.

If you go too far and it doesn’t make any reasonable sense that you could be under duress to a point where you would do certain acts, then that obviously would negate the defense and you would not be able to use the duress or threats defense in a Los Angeles criminal defense case.

This is not a defense that comes up very often in criminal defense, but is definitely a viable defense under the right circumstances. If you believe that you have a defense of duress, then your best option is to consult with a Los Angeles criminal defense attorney and tell then exactly what happened in your case and let them assist you in deciding whether this defense is applicable to your case. I usually am able to listen to the whole story under the cloak of the attorney client privilege and give you a pretty good idea if you can be successful with this defense.

Review Case Strategy With Our Law Firm

So, what I have you do is come in, sit down, we over all the details in my office under the cloak of the attorney/client privilege and then we truly make a decision whether this defense is viable, makes sense under the circumstances of your case and whether we can win the case with the defense or whether we need to show the prosecutor what we have so we can try and get a lesser offense, a lesser charge.  Early case intervention by our lawyers can be critical for the outcome as we could use a pre-filing intervention strategy in an attempt to avoid the filing of formal charges. So, that’s something that we’re definitely going to talk about and make the final decision on when we meet.