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date: 09 May 2021

Abstract and Keywords

Society has conflicting feelings about persons who commit crimes under duress. People are likely to view them as both victims and villains, and feel compassion for the coerced actor. However, this chapter points out that there is something odd about the defense: the coerced actor is asking to be acquitted although he suffers from no mental disorder, knew precisely what he was doing, and chose to avoid harm to herself or others close to her by causing considerable harm to an innocent stranger. Why would the law exculpate a person for such a self-interested act? The chapter surveys existing duress law, considering this question as well as other issues relating to the outer edges of duress law. It considers involuntary act and mens rea; justification and excuse; homicide; and necessity versus duress.

Keywords: defense, justification, duress law, coercion, involuntary act, homicide, mens rea

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