Understanding Coercion Defense: Insights from Philip Kim Law, P.C.

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Explore the complexities of coercion defense with Philip Kim Law, P.C. Learn how this legal strategy can be applied in criminal cases and how our expertise can guide you through the process.


Author: Philip Kim, Founder, Philip Kim Law, P.C.

Defense lawyer Philip Kim has committed his career to standing up for the accused, and protecting the rights and reputations of his valued clients. If you face criminal charges in Georgia, we can provide you with the skilled, effective defense representation you need.

Published on March 01, 2024.


Coercion Defense

Have you or your loved one been charged with an offense? Did you commit the offense under threat, intimidation, or coercion from others? If you were forced to do something you would not normally do because of imminent danger, you may be able to use coercion as a defense.

Understanding what constitutes coercion and how it can be a viable defense to your criminal case is very significant. You can get your case dismissed or secure a sentence reduction when you can successfully maximize the defense of coercion.

At Philip Kim Law, P.C., our experienced criminal defense attorneys will evaluate your case with all dexterity and commitment to fight for you in your trial. We will look into all the possible defenses that may be available to you, including coercion. We can help you plead the defense of coercion while representing effectively in your trial by showing the court that your circumstances meet the legal requirement of an action done under coercion.

What Is Coercion?

Definition and Legal Context

Coercion refers to the use of express or implied threats of violence or reprisal or intimidating behaviors that put a person in immediate fear of dire consequences to force that person to act contrary to their will. These acts of violence or threats of violence will amount to coercion if the perpetrator uses them to make you subvert your consent to free will.

It is important to note that coercion is often used interchangeably for duress. According to Black’s Law Dictionary, duress is defined as any unlawful coercion or threat used for the purpose of inducing a person to act or refrain from acting in a manner they otherwise would not have acted.

Duress means that you only commit the crime because you feared for your life and safety if you did not comply with the other person’s demands, and coercion means someone compelled you to commit an offense or do their bidding using intimidation or force.

Though duress or coercion is not a justification for committing a crime, it can be an excuse when you commit an offense because you face the threat or use of physical force. Coercion, although effective in several cases, cannot be used as a defense for certain crimes, such as murder.

In cases where a homicide occurs due to an imminent threat from the deceased, claiming coercion as a defense is not applicable. However, self-defense may be invoked to justify the actions taken.

Critical Elements of Coercion Defense

As long as you did not negligently place yourself in a dangerous situation, you can claim coercion as a defense. In order to establish a duress defense, you must prove the following elements:

  • Immediate threat of serious bodily harm: To successfully use the defense of coercion, you must show the court that someone threatened to harm you if you refuse to commit an unlawful act. The threat had to be of such a level that it had to do with your life or could cause you immediate serious bodily injury.

  • Reasonable fear of the threat being carried out: Your belief that your life was in immediate danger at the point of committing the act must have been reasonable, that is, that it is that same belief a reasonable person in your position would have had. Factors such as the credibility of the person making the threat or intimidating behavior, their capacity to carry out the threat, and history would be considered.

  • Non-availability of alternative means of escape: The threat you claim you experienced for committing the offense must be inescapable. This factor implies that there cannot have been a reasonable opportunity to avoid the imminent injury. Factors such as the presence or absence of others, the event’s location, and the immediacy of the threats would be considered.

  • By asserting coercion, you acknowledge committing the offense but argue that you are not culpable or liable due to the circumstances surrounding the crime.

You can raise the defense in many cases, including theftrobbery, crimes, and even contractual matters. If you are forced into a contract, you can increase the defense of coercion. If you can prove that the contract is vitiated by coercion, the court may rescind the contract, which frees you from liability for any obligation in it.

Coercion vs. Necessity: How they Interact

Though many confuse the defenses of coercion and necessity, they are distinct despite their interplays. Both coercion and necessity involve being forced to commit a criminal act to avoid serious bodily injury or harm.

Coercion means you committed the crime because another person forced you to do so contrary to your will. Necessity, on the other hand, involves choosing between two unavoidable bad alternatives. In this case, necessity arises from the circumstances surrounding an event rather than the acts of another person, like coercion.

Duress or coercion originates from another person’s actions, while necessity involves choosing between two undesirable outcomes.

For the court to instruct a jury regarding coercion, you must present evidence that coercion occurred. If you can present a sufficient defense, the burden of proof shifts to the prosecution to establish that there was no occurrence of coercion.

If the prosecution claims you committed the crime without coercion, they must prove it beyond reasonable doubt.

Philip Kim Law, P.C., Can Help You

If you commit a crime because someone threatens you or your loved one with imminent death or serious bodily injury, you can raise the defense of coercion during your trial. Hiring experienced criminal defense lawyers can be highly beneficial, as they will assist you in navigating the legal requirements necessary to establish your defense.

At Philip Kim Law, P.C., our attorneys have extensive experience handling criminal cases and building robust defense strategies for our clients. We will give you practical guidance and assistance, evaluate your case, consider available defenses you can raise, and represent you effectively in your trial. We are committed to helping you secure the best possible outcome in your case.

Contact us to schedule a free consultation today.

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Philip Kim Law, P.C.
368 West Pike Street, Suite 203
Lawrenceville, GA 30046
(678) 203-6968
Fax: (678) 273-3501
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