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In criminal law, duress, often known as coercion, is a tactic that may be utilised to exonerate a defendant of his or her guilt during a trial.

 Force in Criminal Law
Duress

In criminal law, duress, often known as coercion, is a tactic that may be utilised to exonerate a defendant of his or her guilt during a trial. Because the defendant already committed an actus reus, and because some amount of mens rea is present merely because the defendant truly intended to commit the crime, some degree of culpability has already been linked to the defendant’s actions. While under extreme stress, that is, restriction or the prospect of actual and physical injury, a defendant may be able to reduce or even erase the mens rea of the crime, depending on the circumstances.

The use of real or threatened violence to coerce a person to do or omit an activity in violation of the law might result in a person being exonerated of criminal accountability for their actions. There are typically four scenarios in which a defendant’s guilt may be exonerated by relying on this argument to his or her advantage. These include dread of losing one’s life or being dismembered, mayhem (loss of a limb or severe deformity), or wrongful detention, among other things. When these acts of violence, or threats of violence, are inflicted not only on the defendant, but also on the defendant’s spouse, children, or other intimate family members or dependents, the defence of duress may be used.

Under the circumstances of duress, annoyance and persuasion are frequently insufficient to provide a defence. Furthermore, any level of violence or intimidation is not always sufficient. To establish the duress defence, it is generally necessary that the defendant’s courage was completely overcome by the violence or threat of violence – as it would have been overcome by the courage of any person of ordinary courage – to the point where he lost control of his will power and acted essentially involuntarily, and thus is not held responsible for his actions. When evaluating what the defendant’s usual degree of bravery should have been, a variety of characteristics must be taken into consideration, including his or her age, weight, height, health, temper, and temperament, among others.