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Will I be charged with a crime if I was forced to commit it?

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For the most part, when individuals consider their moral principles, they often conclude that they would never break the law aside from maybe a minor traffic violation. However, their ethical principles can quickly go out the window when someone coerces them to commit a crime by threatening their life or the lives of their loved ones. Most people will do anything to keep themselves or their loved ones safe from harm, meaning even the most law-abiding citizens can be forced into committing criminal acts. Fortunately for these individuals, the law recognizes that imminent threats of death and serious injury can coerce reasonable people to break the law. If you have been forced into committing a crime, it is in your best interest to contact a skilled Astoria Criminal Defense Lawyer who can help you determine whether you can use the duress defense to avoid criminal charges.

Can I be charged with a crime if I was forced into committing it?

If you were coerced to commit a criminal act, it is possible that the duress defense can serve as a legal justification that absolves you from criminal charges. Nevertheless, duress is not a justification for committing a crime. However, it can serve as a valid excuse for why a reasonable, law-abiding citizen would feel compelled to commit a crime as they reasonably feared their or another person’s life was at stake.

Generally, duress is not considered a sufficient defense for murder or other serious crimes. This is primarily because killing someone else to avoid being killed is not an adequate excuse for homicide. The duress defense cannot be presented if you were responsible for provoking the situation that resulted in the threat of serious injury or death. Therefore, you can be charged with a crime under these circumstances despite being forced into committing it.

What are the elements of duress?

To fight charges if you were forced to commit a crime, you must prove the different elements of duress. Firstly, you must prove that a reasonable person in the same position would have committed the crime to protect themselves or another person. Essentially, you must prove that any person in your situation would have reasonably feared that they or another person would have suffered serious bodily injury or death if they did not carry out the criminal act.

For the duress defense to be used, you must have faced an imminent threat of death or serious harm through another person’s direct actions or words. Essentially, the danger does not need to be explicitly stated. Instead, it can be implied by holding a deadly weapon such as a gun or knife to an individual. It cannot be a past action. For example, if you were blackmailed, it would not apply as there is no imminent threat to anyone’s life.

If you have been coerced into committing a crime, contact a talented Astoria, Queens, criminal defense lawyer from Vasiliou Law today. Our firm is prepared to assist you in proving the elements of duress to help you prevent criminal charges.

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