Evidence of Battering and the Defense of Duress
by the National Defense Center for Criminalized Survivors
Lay and expert evidence on battering and its effectsi is often relevant to support a claim of duress or coercion. The defendant’s fear of imminent harm at the hands of her abuser may explain why she committed, participated in, or assisted her abuser and/or others in the commission of a wide variety of crimes, such as drug distribution, theft or fraud offenses, robbery, sexual or other abuse of her children, and murder (in jurisdictions that allow duress as a defense to murder). As in any other area where specialized knowledge is needed to help educate judge and jury (e.g., ballistics, eyewitness identification), a domestic violence expert is often needed in cases involving victim defendants asserting duress.
Evidence concerning the defendant’s experiences of abuse is relevant to a duress defense in much the same way as it is relevant to self-defense. In duress, as in self-defense, evidence of abuse is relevant to the reasonable person analysis.Download EvidenceBatteringDefenseDuress2023.pdf