State v. Toscano

74 N.J. 421, 378 A.2d 755 (1977)

 

RULE:

Duress shall be a defense to a crime other than murder if the defendant engaged in conduct because he was coerced to do so by the use of, or threat to use, unlawful force against his person or the person of another, which a person of reasonable firmness in his situation would have been unable to resist. 

FACTS:

Defendant was convicted of conspiring to obtain money by false pretenses. Defendant appealed his conviction, arguing that he acted under duress. The lower court held that the threatened harm to defendant and his family was not sufficiently imminent to justify charging the jury on the defense of duress. The supreme court reversed defendant's conviction, enunciating a new rule. 

ISSUE:

Is duress a defense to a crime other than murder if the defendant engaged in conduct because he was coerced to do so by the use of, or threat to use, unlawful force against his person?

ANSWER:

Yes.

CONCLUSION:

The supreme court held that duress was a defense to crimes other than murder if defendant engaged in conduct because he was coerced to do so by the use of, or threat to use, unlawful force against his person or the person of another, which a person of reasonable firmness in his situation would not have been able to resist. The supreme court continued that defendant had the burden of proving by a preponderance of the evidence the defense duress.

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