After being accused of a crime, you must choose the type of defense approach you wish to use to prove your innocence. Different defenses apply depending on the circumstances of the alleged crime, and choosing the wrong one can sink your chances of winning before you even start. Before pressing ahead with a defense of duress, discuss these considerations with your attorney.

Duress Requires a Genuine Need

Committing a crime under duress means that you felt somehow forced into taking illegal action. This means you must be able to prove you were under physical threat or at least truly believed that you were in danger. Stealing money from an employer you thought might fire you may or may not qualify under a duress defense since there is no direct threat of grievous physical harm. If the theft of money occurred because a fellow employee threatened your life instead, that would likely qualify for a duress defense. Some states allow for this defense if you were at risk of great personal loss, such as being threatened with theft, but you should check with your lawyer before assuming this is true in your state.

Duress is Similar but Separate From Necessity

Self-defense is not generally considered a form of duress defense because it falls under the related legal concept of necessity. The differences between duress and necessity defenses are hard to understand without a legal degree, so it's best to let your attorney determine which better fits your case. For example, the necessity defense requires some force of nature aside from the actions or words of a person that triggered the illegal behavior. Choosing the wrong defense between duress and necessity will only make it harder to argue your case properly.

Duress Can Include Threats Against Others

If you acted in the defense of a friend, family member, or loved one that was being threatened with serious bodily harm, you can still use a duress defense in many cases. However, the threat must be immediate and imminent, along with the actions taken against it. If a loved one is threatened and then you take action against the one making threats days or weeks later in retaliation, this is unlikely to match the requirements of the duress defense. Not all states and courts allow for this kind of deferred protection either. Check with your lawyer about local restrictions on this kind of defense if your case involves secondary parties that were being threatened rather than direct threats made against your person.

Contact a law firm, like Kalasnik Law Office, for more help.