Also found in: Dictionary, Thesaurus, Medical, Legal, Encyclopedia, Wikipedia.


Force, coercion or threat of either. A contract signed under duress is usually invalid and unenforceable. To give a very simple example, one may not hold a gun to the head of another party and expect him/her to sign a valid contract. Likewise, one may not be guilty of a crime if one commits it under duress.


Unlawful pressure, force, or threats by one person against another. If one is the victim of duress, then any contract or agreement entered into as a result of the duress is void.The operative word in the definition is “unlawful.”Many people claim economic duress when a lender,for example, threatens foreclosure unless a borrower signs a new loan agreement with onerous terms, a high interest rate, and large fees for attorneys and other expenses. Usually, if the lender had the right to foreclose,then the threats cannot be unlawful and duress does not exist.

References in periodicals archive ?
Although the economic-duress defenses outlined above are colorable under existing law, these defenses would be nearly foolproof under the broader theories of duress that have been advanced by some feminist scholars.
State courts have already begun to explore the application of duress doctrine to forced-arbitration clauses.
71) When asked to enforce these arbitration clauses, a judge should apply the "no reasonable alternative" test to hold that the consumer entered the contract for the essential good under duress and therefore no contract was ever actually formed.
In addition, Inovonics developed the Enterprise Mobile Duress (EMD) framework to help advance the common industry goal of protecting people from violence and helping organizations take a practical and strategic approach to improving personal safety in the workplace.
Blackstone followed similar lines by stating unequivocally that a man under duress "ought rather to die himself, than escape by the murder of an innocent.
This decision reaffirming the common law rule in Howe was significant, as noted by Judges McDonald and Vohrah in their Erdemovic opinion because (1) it overruled an earlier English decision that had allowed duress as a "defence to murder for a principal in the second degree" and represented a "firm rejection of the view in English law that duress, generally, affects the voluntariness of the actus reus or the mens rea"; (15) and (2) that "duress as a defence affects only the existence or absence of mens rea.
While the SJC rejected duress as an affirmative duress to murder, it did reserve the right to consider duress as a mitigating factor in guilt reduction under the Massachusetts capital review statute.
Vasquez, the SJC, by refusing to allow the defense of duress to murder, chose to endorse an impractical and out-dated common-law principle.
The law of criminal duress has become even more complicated in Canada with the advent of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms in 1982 (Charter).
Despite these developments of duress in both civil and criminal law, the defense of duress requires more analysis to best protect unwitting victims.
11) Federal criminal jurisdiction is restrictive and thus precludes many crimes where duress and necessity would naturally be invoked.
The first part of this Article examines how federal courts have analyzed duress and necessity during the liability phase, as well as how sentencing judges have departed from the U.