Coercion Defense in Georgia

There are some defenses that an Attorney can use to help defend your case. One of those defenses is coercion. Coercion occurs when the accused is forced to do an act against their will by the use of pressure, physical force, or threats. Georgia does accept the defense of coercion in criminal cases, except for murder cases. Lawson and Berry and their of Georgia Criminal Defense Lawyers are familiar with all of the arguments that can be used to support your case and coercion is no exception. If you or a loved one has been charged with a crime and it was done out of coercion, contact our offices today to seek representation.

Georgia Law on Coercion 

O.C.G.A. §16-3-26 states that a person is not guilty of a crime if the act committed was done under such coercion that the person reasonably believed that performing the act was the only way to prevent their imminent death or great bodily injury. 

However, if the act was murder, then the defense of coercion does not apply.

One of the important things to note about the coercion statutes is that the accused must have reasonably believed that committing the crime was the only way to prevent death or great bodily injury. The fear of injury must be reasonable, and the danger must not be one of future violence but of present and immediate violence. Chambers v. State, 154 Ga. App. 620, (1980). If a reasonable person would not have felt pressured to commit the criminal offense and the State could prove that, then coercion will not apply to your case.

Furthermore, coercion is not a defense if the person has any reasonable way, other than committing the crime, to escape the threat of harm.

Examples of Coercion

A 16-year-old boy is walking home from school when suddenly he is grabbed from behind, and someone puts a gun to his head. They tell him that he must steal some alcohol from a nearby convenience store or else they are going to shoot him. He steals it and gets apprehended afterward. The boy would be able to successfully raise the defense of coercion because he thought his life was at stake. Furthermore, a reasonable person would have also done the same thing with a gun pointed at their head.

An example where the Court did not uphold the defense of coercion can be found in Gordon v. State. 234 Ga. App. 551, (1998). In this case, defendant hid in a store at the closing time in order to steal some items from the store. He called the assistant manager at 1:00 a.m. and the manager noticed the call was coming from his own locked office. The manager called the police who found the suspect still inside the store holding a hammer and found cigarettes, stamps, and a roll of quarters on his person. During the trial, the defendant argued that he committed the burglary because he needed to repay money he had lost. He testified that he had lost someone's money and they threatened to hurt his son. He argued that he had been coerced to commit the burglary in order to protect his son from being injured. The Court did not accept this argument because the fear required in coercion must be one of present and immediate violence. There was no evidence that the defendant was in present or immediate danger of being injured so as to justify his criminal conduct. Therefore, he was convicted of burglary and the defense of coercion was denied.

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