Can duress be used on an assault charge and why?

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larrygates | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

There are two implications to your question which makes it unclear, so I will address both.

Duress is not an element in the crime of assault. It that were the case, every teacher who overloads a student with work would be guilty of assault. To constitute an assault, there must be an offer or threat to perform some physical violence upon the person of another with the apparent ability to inflict that harm. Therefore, if one points a weapon or even a clenched fist at another, one has most likely committed the offense. Mere words alone, without the apparent ability or intent, cannot justify a charge of assault.

As for duress as a defense to a charge of assault, that doesn't work either. The only defense which would lie would be self defense, in which instance there would have to be a very real tangible threat to one's physical safety. Under any circumstances, self defense will not lie unless one uses no greater force than that to which one is exposed.

Duress would most likely constitute extortion or some similar offense; however, the mere act of causing one mental discomfort without a physical presentation of violence would not constitute assault.

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