If you have been accused of committing a crime in the state of New Jersey, you may be up against extensive jail time, hefty fines, and a permanent criminal record, among other things. These are terrible prospects, especially if you believe that you are innocent. Though, it may be difficult to defend your innocence if you were forced into committing the alleged crime. Read on to discover whether you can be charged with a crime if you were forced into it and how one of the experienced New Jersey & Pennsylvania criminal defense lawyers at The Vigilante Law Firm, P.C. can step up on your behalf.
Can I be charged if I was forced into committing a crime?
You cannot justify your committing of a crime, but you may attempt to excuse it by arguing that you were forced to do so. In legal terms, you may claim duress. This claim refers to a situation in which you engaged in criminal activity as a result of violence or threats of violence by another party. In a way, it is a similar claim to that of self-defense.
With this, duress may not be used as a defense for a serious crime, such as murder. This is because the New Jersey criminal court may not deem your fear as a good-enough excuse to end the life of an innocent bystander. Though, if they find it reasonable to do so, the court may decide to reduce your murder charge to that of manslaughter.
What elements of duress should I claim in my defense?
Importantly, duress is not a foolproof claim to use in your defense; nonetheless, it is doable. This is so long as you provide a sufficient amount of evidence that points to the existence of each element of duress. These elements are as follows:
- You may argue that you had a reasonable fear of imminent death or serious bodily harm if you did not engage in this criminal activity.
- You may argue that you experienced this reasonable fear due to the words or actions of another party involved in this criminal activity.
- You may argue that you had no reasonable opportunity to escape the threats of another party involved in this criminal activity.
- You may argue that you were ultimately involved in this criminal activity due to no fault of your own.
You must understand that that the prosecution will likely attempt to defeat your argument of duress with counterclaims. With all that being said, you should not have to go through your criminal defense proceedings alone. Instead, you should seek the assistance of one of the competent New Jersey criminal defense lawyers from The Vigilante Law Firm, P.C. Contact our firm today.