Coercion Defense In Criminal Law
Coercion is used to mean the use of threats of violence or other intimidating behavior like reprisal to force someone to commit a criminal act. According to Missouri laws, coercion constitutes violence, threats of violence, or any actions that force people to act in a manner that subverts their consent. Missouri law allows for the coercion defense.
It is usually a difficult task to tell the small difference that exists between mere intimidation and coercion. As such you need a good lawyer to prove that you acted under coercion.
A person charged with a crime could prove to be coerced into doing an offense if the evidence provided in court satisfy the following elements
1.Threat of death or bodily injury
A defendant can successfully mount a coercion defense if there is a proof that he was forced to commit a crime failure to which he would face death or bodily harm. In coercion, this threat does not only have to affect people close to the defendant but also other people, including strangers.
Also, in coercion, the threat doesn’t have to be immediate. A threat of future harm may be used to support coercion defense.
2.Reasonable fear to execute a threat
A successful coercion defense requires that the defendant’s fear be reasonable and related to him/her committing the crime. A Missouri court will look at the evidence provided and give an objective ruling. Such a verdict demands that if any other person were in a similar situation to that of the defendant ought to feel the same amount of fear to necessitate the criminal act.
Other subjective factors like prior fearful interactions with the person threatening the defendant cannot be considered in the defense.
3.No reasonable opportunity to avoid the crime
This element requires that a defendant prove that there was no reasonable chance to escape the threat other than committing the offense.
Once the prosecution can prove that the defendant had a legitimate way of avoiding the danger, then the coercion defense collapses.
Limitations on coercion
Not applicable to severe crimes
Under Missouri law, there is no justification for taking a life. As such, coercion cannot be used as a defense for serious crimes like homicide.
Negligence or recklessness
If you put yourself in a position that made someone to coerce you into committing a crime either recklessly or through negligence, then you are not eligible for a coerce defense.
Federal coercion laws
Several federal laws address coercion.These laws are related to factors like sex, politics, employment, contract law, among others. Some of these laws include;
( i ) Coercion and enticement
This law addresses sex trafficking where a person is coerced to move from one region to another(across international or state boundaries) to engage in sexual activities. This is a criminal offense punishable by fines and/or imprisonment.
( ii ) Coercion of political activity
It states that threatening a federal employee to engage or fail to engage in political activities is a criminal act. If the court finds you to be guilty of the offense, you can face a fine or imprisonment for up to 3 years.
( iii ) Prohibition of coercion
Government employees should not, in any way, threaten other employees regarding their leave rights.
( iv )Contract coercionn
If you are forced to enter into a contract either through threats or retaliation, then the agreement, as a whole, is considered illegal. Even if only a small section of the contract is proven to involve a coercive act, then the entire contract becomes unenforceable.
It is evident coercion happens in different contexts in criminal law. So if you are charged with a crime that involves coercion in Missouri, then you need an experienced lawyer to assist you to fight the charges in court.