Duress / Undue Influence
Some crimes are only committed because the offender was acting under the order of someone else, believing that they or a loved one was in danger by the person giving the orders. In this type of situation, it is never easy to make a decision and sometimes the easiest decision is to commit the act, whether it is committing the crime or signing a will that is to someone else’s wishes. In these types of situations there are options for the person who was acting under the influence of someone else. If you think you have been placed in such a situation, call now for a free consultation with one of our experienced New York criminal attorneys.
Duress is defined in the New York penal code to give a defense to those who committed an offense or signed an otherwise legally binding document. The basic way that duress applies is when a person commits an act that they would not if they were able to make their own decisions without the threat of physical force. Most criminal offenses also contain a specific distinction in their writing that says that a person acting under duress is not held to the same criminal standard as someone who commits the act under their own free will.
For example, murder in the second degree section 1(b) is charged when a person causes the death of another by suicide unless the defendants conduct was because of duress. This is, of course, an extreme example, but a defendant who causes another’s suicide because of a third party making significant effort to show that the defendant or their family is threatened with the imminent use of physical force or by the use of actual physical force would have a significant defense when dealing with their charges.
Another type of situation where duress, or undue influence would apply is in the signing of a will. A will is only a legally binding document when the person who is writing the will signs the document, but only does so because of the influence of a third party. This also encompasses the situation where a person takes advantage of someone who is elderly or unable to make their own decisions. An example of undue influence would be a situation where a caretaker who uses their position to influence the execution of a will of the person they are caring for that benefits them. If the person had not been influenced, they would not have changed their will to benefit the person named and if such influence is proved the will would be void.
The most important thing to know if you have been put in a situation like this is that there are options. The first step is reaching out to an attorney to discuss your situation. Our team of experienced New York criminal attorneys are here to take your call and begin working with you. We can help you navigate the complex court system and make sure that you are represented with the highest level of care.