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When is duress a possible legal defense

New York |

If an individual commits a crime under duress and is compensated for doing so is that still a legal defense? Or they cannot be compensated?

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Attorney answers 2


Duress is still a legal defense, although it's not always the most successful. It's unclear from your question what you mean by being compensated. Compensated by who, the person putting you under duress? If that's the case, and the person threatened your life for example, then why take the money? At least that is what a prosecutor or ultimately a jury is going to ask themselves. Best advice is to speak to a local attorney about your situation and they can evaluate your case and see what the best defense for you is. Good luck.


Duress exists as a legal defense. However, the number of times that it is a successful defense is exceedingly rare. A crime committed under duress cannot be a greater evil than whatever the subject is being threatened with. For example you cannot kill another person becasue the life of your spouse is being threatened; such a person would by sympathetic, but duress would not excuse that type of crime. On the other hand stealing a loaf of bread and a jar of peanut butter to feed your starving children might present a viable duress defense. HOWEVER, with all of that stated it would be my opinion that having received compensation from someone for having broken the law would seriously undermine your duress defense. Your lawyer would have a very difficult job in convincing a jury that you did not voluntarily acquiesce to involving yourself in the crime for profit from the beginning.

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