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What is the Coercion and Duress Defense?

In law, coercion and duress refers to a situation where an individual performs an act as a result of threat, violence, or other pressure against the individual. Duress is the pressure which is exerted upon an individual in order to coerce that individual to perform the act that would not be normally performed.

Coercion and Duress has two main aspects. The first is that is that it negates the individual’s consent to an act, such as entering a contract or sexual activity. Second, it can be used a potential legal justification or defense for an act that would normally be considered unlawful. When coercion and duress is used as a defense, a defendant argues that he/she should not be considered liable for the act because, although the act was illegal, it was only done due to an extreme unlawful pressure. When coercion and duress is used in criminal law, a duress defense is very similar to a plea of guilty in the sense that the defendant admits partial culpability. In both of these defenses, the defense may not be accepted while the criminal act is.

Coercion and Duress can only qualify as a defense when:

• The duress must be death or serious bodily harm

• The harm threatened must be more than the harm of the crime

• The duress must be inescapable and immediate

• The defendant must not have any fault in becoming involved in the situation

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