When contemplating one’s moral principles, it is common to believe that one would never break the law. While minor traffic violations may occur, reasonable individuals would typically never commit serious criminal offenses. Nonetheless, even the most law-abiding individuals may be coerced to commit criminal acts when faced with threats to their or their loved ones’ lives. While duress is not a legally recognized justification for committing a crime, it can serve as a defense against criminal charges. If you have been forced into committing a crime, it is in your immediate interest to contact a seasoned Rockland County Criminal Defense Attorney who can help you prove the elements of duress to help you prevent criminal penalties.
Could I face criminal charges if forced into committing a crime in New York?
If you were forced to break the law, you may be able to avoid criminal charges through the legal defense of duress. When an individual faces an imminent threat of death or serious harm through the actions or words of another person, which causes them to be coerced into committing a crime, it is considered duress.
For this defense to be used successfully, you must prove that you faced an imminent threat of death or serious harm through the actions or words of another person. Further, this threat caused you to reasonably fear that you or someone else would be harmed or killed if you did not commit the crime. It is critical to note that this type of threat does not need to be explicitly stated. If a person holds a deadly weapon such as a gun or knife to you, this is considered an imminent threat of harm.
The threat must occur in the present, meaning if you were blackmailed or someone threatened to burn your house down if you did not do as they asked, you would not be considered under duress as no one’s life is at stake. Ultimately, someone’s life must be at risk for the duress defense to be used. Moreover, to prove all of the elements of duress, you’ll have to show that if someone else were in the same position, they would have reasonably committed the crime to keep themselves or another person out of harm’s way. Ultimately, they must show there was no alternative to committing the crime.
When can the duress defense not be presented?
There are a few instances where the duress defense is not an appropriate excuse against criminal charges. If you were responsible for getting into a situation that resulted in the threat of death or severe injury, you could not present the duress defense. Similarly, it cannot be presented for murder or other serious crimes, as killing someone else to avoid being killed is not a sufficient defense for homicide.
If you have been forced into committing a crime, contact a determined Rockland County criminal defense attorney from the Law Office of Carl Spector today. Our firm can help you prove the elements of duress to maximize your chances of achieving the best possible outcome for your situation.