In most jurisdictions, when an individual is accused of a criminal offense, he or she must appear in court of law to answer the charges (Farrell, 2008). In this circumstance, the accused individual is known as the defendant. Therefore, as a defendant, one is supposed to establish a criminal defense with the assistance of a criminal attorney in order to avoid a guilty verdict (LexisNexis, 2012). The prosecutor is the other party which tries to prove that the criminal act performed by the defendant is factual. A criminal defense can be described as a strategic argument which attempts to confront the legitimacy and satisfactoriness of the evidence presented by the prosecutor. This paper will evidently examine a case of coercion and duress defense.
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In the study of criminal law, there are certain conditions which tend to negate the elements of the crime. These conditions are known as defenses. These defenses are liable for the provision of either partial or total refuge from the punishment that is to be inflicted by the jurisdiction (LexisNexis, 2012). According to the law, a criminal defendant usually faces a possible jail term or other forms of punishment. Therefore, for an individual to minimize these possible charges, he or she can comply with a criminal attorney in order to employ the use of criminal defenses. There are various types of defenses in the field of criminal law. Some of the most common defenses include insanity defense, intoxication defense, coercion and duress, affirmative criminal defense, abandonment or withdrawal among others (Farrell, 2008).
In criminal proceedings, under several jurisdictions, the defendant always raises a defense to avoid accountability of the criminal action (LexisNexis, 2012). Additionally, the defendant can also make allegations against the plaintiff arguing that, if the allegations are true, the defendant is not legally responsible. This shows that the defendant in a court of law is the holder of the burden of proof in any criminal proceeding. An outrageous example is when a defendant attempts to claim aggravation in any form of crime.
Coercion and duress can be identified as an affirmative criminal defense which asserts that the defendant was forced to commit a crime because, he or she was allegedly threatened by an unlawful force. The threats made by an unlawful force can substantially satisfy this coercion defense. Furthermore, this threat force should not only be employed against the individual who is accused of committing a crime. On the contrary, this may involve a threat against another individual especially a family member. Therefore, a duress or coercion can be described as a situation whereby an individual performs a crime as a result of external pressure from another individual (Gaines & Miller, 2006).
According to common jurisdictions, duress involves two crucial aspects. One of the aspects is that it usually negates the consent of the individual to perform a criminal act. Secondly, it acts as a possible legal defense to an unlawful act. Duress can act as a defense in most jurisdictions. However, when the condition involves severe crimes such as murder and treason, the duress may not apply as a defense mechanism. In duress, the defendant pleads guilty for the crime but, he/she denies liability because he/she broke the law due to extreme unlawful pressure (Gaines & Miller, 2006).
The duress or coercion is mostly raised in an allegation of sexual assault in order to contradict a defense when making an allegation. Defendants who raise the duress defense in courts accept some degree of responsibility of the crime committed. The liability can be discharged by the court if substantial evidence is provided. In other cases, the court can reduce the sentence of the defendant (Farrell, 2008). Moreover, the form of coercion solely depends on the kind of injury that is threatened and the effects. As a matter of fact, these effects can either be physical, psychological, legal or social depending on the individual who wants to inflict harm.
According to certain jurisdictions, a threat that causes harm to an individual should not force the individual to break the law intentionally, particularly if the threat can cause significant harm to the third party. In certain circumstances, this may also involve taking a close associate into captivity. In this case, the individual is forced to perform the unlawful act, or the hostage will be killed (Farrell, 2008). In other circumstances, the act of kidnapping and demanding of ransom can also be identified as a form of pressure that is centered on saving the life of the individual in captivity. The main purpose of duress or coercion is to substitute the aim of an individual to that of the victim.
For duress to meet the criteria of a defense, there are certain requirements that are essential. These requirements state that the threat should involve grim damage to the body or even lead to death. In addition, the threat should be instantaneous or inevitable. Furthermore, the harm that is to be inflicted to the individual facing pressure should be of immense severity as compared to the damage caused by the crime and the defendant must have been involved in this case indirectly (Farrell, 2008). Age, insanity, physical disability and pregnancy among other cases can be considered in under duress defense.
One of the most prominent cases on duress issue is the Dixon v. U. S. (05-7053) case. In the Dixon v. U. S (05-7053) case, Keshia Dixon who is a Texan claims that she had purchased guns under duress (Gaines & Miller, 2006). She was also charged for making false statements concerning the purchase of firearms. During the trial at the Supreme Court, Dixon argued that when she purchased the firearm under pressure from her boyfriend. She also knew that what she was doing was a criminal offense. Therefore, Dixon informed the Supreme Court that she acted under duress since; she was threatened together with her daughter. Her boyfriend was ready to inflict bodily harm to Dixon and her daughter if she was not going to buy the ammunition for him.
Dixon was charged a sentence of 34 months in custody. In addition, Dixon was also facing charges related to illegal check-cashing at the epoch of purchasing the guns. In fact, she gave wrong information to the gun dealers in order to obtain the firearms for his boyfriend. Her criminal defense lawyer persuaded the jury that she was gratified to present evidence in support to claim her duress. However, the trial judge deprived this request. Therefore, the government held the burden of proving whether the burden of persuasion was under the government. Contrarily, the Supreme Court and the Justice Department argued that Dixon was not entitled to a duress hearing. These arguments asserted that Dixon’s case was not appropriate in resolving the dispute between the two judiciary bodies (Gaines & Miller, 2006).
In conclusion, most jurisdictions point out that duress should involve an order to perform something unambiguous to protect the threatened individual from performing a crime to reverse the condition (LexisNexis, 2012). In fact, when an individual positions himself or herself in a threat able condition, duress cannot act as a feasible condition. Moreover, duress or coercion defense cannot be petitioned against if the defendant was involved in various reckless actions. For example, if an individual takes part in an unlawful act such as drug dealing, which leads to robbery then, duress cannot be used in criminal defense (Gaines & Miller, 2006).
Farrell, T. (2008). Criminal defense tools and techniques. United States: James Publishers.
Gaines, L., & Miller, L. (2006). Criminal justice in action: The core. New York: Wadsworth Press.
LexisNexis. (2012). Types of criminal defenses. Retrieved from http://www. attorneys. com/criminal-defense/types-of-criminal-defenses/