Duress (often used in the phrase under duress) is an unlawful pressure exerted upon a person to coerce that person to perform an act that he or she ordinarily would not perform.
Duress also encompasses the same harm, threats, or restraint exercised upon the affected individual's spouse, child, or parent.
Duress is distinguishable from Undue Influence, a concept employed in the law of wills, in that the latter term involves a wrongdoer who is a fiduciary, one who occupies a position of trust and confidence in regard to the testator, the creator of the will.
Duress also exists where a person is coerced by the wrongful conduct or threat of another to enter into a contract under circumstances that deprive the individual of his or her volition.
As a defense to a civil action, the federal Rules of Civil Procedure require that duress be pleaded affirmatively.
Except with respect to Homicide, a person who is compelled to commit a crime by an unlawful threat from another person to injure him, her, or a third person, will generally not be held responsible for its commission.
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