The thought of being forced into committing a crime seems like something made up for crime fiction. However, this is a real event that occurs, and there are laws dictating how these unusual circumstances should be handled. If forced into committing a crime, you were likely acting under duress. This is a defense used to explain why someone behaved the way they did. The following blog explores more about these unusual circumstances and explains why it’s in your best interest to enlist the assistance of a Sacramento criminal defense lawyer.
What Is Duress?
Duress is an excuse those accused of criminal activity can use if they were forced to commit acts that they would otherwise not commit. To claim duress, key elements must be present. These include:
- The imminent threat of death or severe bodily harm
- Reasonable fear of death or harm
- No reasonable opportunity to escape or evade the threat
- Through no fault of the defendant
For example, if you are sitting at a red light and a bank robber gets in your car, puts a gun to your head, and demands that you help him escape, or he will kill you, this would constitute duress. This is because the threat is imminent, and you have no way to exit the situation. Though you would technically be aiding a criminal, you would have a strong claim for duress, given the circumstances.
However, if you are a gang member and the leader threatens to kill you if you do not steal a car, you likely would not be able to claim duress. This is because you placed yourself in a situation (joining a gang) where the threat of violence is likely.
Generally, duress can be used for a variety of criminal actions except murder.
What Should I Do if I Was Forced to Commit a Crime?
If forced to commit a crime, the most important thing you must do is contact an experienced attorney as soon as possible. Unfortunately, this situation is exceptionally complex. As such, it is in your best interest to allow someone well-versed in the law to handle these legal matters.
An attorney can help prove you had no criminal intent to commit a crime and that you were not acting of your own free will or violation but acting due to an outside force.
At the Law Offices of Dale R. Gomes, our dedicated legal team can help you navigate the complexities of these unfortunate situations. We understand that committing a crime can be devastating. As such, we will do everything possible to fight to prove you had no other option. Contact us today to learn how we can assist you during these challenging times.