Law and Philosophy

, Volume 10, Issue 2, pp 161-188

First online:

Duress and criminal responsibility

  • Craig L. CarrAffiliated withDept. of Political Science, Portlant StateUniversity

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While the plea of duress is generally accepted as a defense against criminal prosecution, the reasons why it exonerates are subject to dispute and disagreement. Duress is not easily recognizable as either an excusing or justifying condition. Additionally, duress is generally not permitted as a defense against criminal homicide, though some American jurisdictions allow the defense in felony-murder cases. In this paper, I present an argument for how and why the presence of duress can defeat a finding of criminal responsibility. This is intended to establish the philosophical foundation for the legal acceptability of the duress defense, even though I conclude that the defense does not qualify as either an excuse or a justification. I also argue that the duress defense should be allowed in cases of homicide.