Salt Lake Criminal Defense - Utah Criminal Lawyer
Utah Code 76-2-302 - Compulsion
Under Utah law, a defendant cannot be convicted of a crime for conduct
committed by the defendant if the defendant acted under compulsion. In
analyzing such a defense to a Utah criminal prosecution, it is
important to consider the language of the statute defining the defense
of compulsion. In order to successfully raise this defense, the
statutory elements must be strictly met. Consultation with an
experienced criminal defense attorney
is strongly encouraged.
Utah Compulsion Defense Defined
Utah Code 76-2-302(1) provides that a "person is not guilty of an
offense when he engaged in the proscribed conduct because he was
coerced to do so by the use or threatened imminent use of unlawful
physical force upon him or a third person, which force or threatened
force a person of reasonable firmness in his situation would not have
This standard requires more than mere peer pressure. Instead, to mount
a successful compulsion defense, a defendant must present evidence to
support each specific element of the statutory compulsion defense.
These elements are discussed below.
Unlawful Physical Force:
A compulsion defense requires evidence that the defendant committed the
criminal act as a result of a threat of unlawful physical force.
Threats of legal action, threats to reveal embarrassing information,
threats to withhold financial support, or other threats not involving
physical force or violence are not sufficient to meet the statutory
requirements of a Utah compulsion defense.
The threat of physical force must be imminent. It is not sufficient
that a threat is made to use force at some time in the indefinite
future. The threat must be relatively immediate.
Force Against Defendant
or Third Person:
On this requirement, the statute is somewhat generous. A person may
raise a compulsion defense even if the threat is made against a third
person. For example, a threat to kill the defendant's child may serve
to support a compulsion defense just as would a threat to kill the
defendant. The statutory compulsion defense does not specifically
distinguish between a threat made against the defendant and a threat
made against a third person.
A Utah Compulsion Defense Exception
The defense of compulsion is not available to a criminal defendant in
Utah if the evidence shows that the defendant "intentionally,
knowingly, or recklessly" put himself in a situation where it is
"probably that he will be subjected to duress." Consider the following
Albert agrees with Bob
to help rob a bank. The two enter the bank, Bob raises a gun in the
air, and shouts, "Everybody get down on the floor." Bob then orders
Albert to start tying up the tellers. At this point, Albert gets cold
feet and tells Bob that he only signed up for a robbery, and doesn't
want to participate in anything that could be seen as kidnapping. Bob
threatens Albert, telling him that if he doesn't start tying up the
tellers, Bob will start shooting hostages. Under this threatened use of
unlawful force against the third-party hostages, Albert agrees to tie
up the tellers.
In this scenario, Albert is in fact acting under the
threatened use of unlawful force against third persons. Further, the
nature of the threat is such that a person of reasonable firmness would
likely have complied with Bob's demands. But even though these elements
of a compulsion defense may be met, Albert cannot benefit from the
compulsion defense with regard to a kidnapping
charge if the jury believes that by agreeing to participate
in the robbery
, Albert put himself in a situation where it was
"probable that he would be subjected to duress."
Common Law Compulsion Presumption Eliminated
Utah's law on the affirmative defense of compulsion specifically
provides that a married woman is not, merely by reason of the presence
of her husband at the time she commits a crime, to any presumption of
compulsion or to any defense of compulsion. For a married woman to
raise the defense of compulsion, a married woman must meet all of the
ordinary elements of a compulsion defense.
Standing alone, this statutory language may seem strange and
unnecessary, since the Utah criminal code generally treats all people
equally, male and female, married and unmarried. To be properly
understood, one must look at the old English common law regarding
compulsion as it applied to married women.
Under the common law, a woman's actions taken in the presence of her
husband could be presumed to have been taken under his dominion and
will. Thus, the wife could be exempted from criminal punishment based
on this presumed coercion. This common law defense of compulsion for a
married woman was in turn based on long-since outdated and abandoned
principles regarding marriage, property, and other rights of women.
While not specifically referencing the common law, the Utah criminal
compulsion statute makes clear that this old common law presumption is
no longer valid under Utah law.
Finding a Utah Criminal Defense Attorney in Salt
you are facing criminal charges, a good criminal attorney
critical to developing a successful defense strategy. If you are
contemplating raising the defense of compulsion, it is even more
important to have an experienced
criminal defense lawyer on your side.
Based in Salt Lake City, criminal defense attorney Stephen Howard has
defended thousands of felony
cases during his career.
He has achieved not guilty verdicts and dismissals for some of the most
serious criminal charges on the books in Utah.
us today to arrange
for a confidential consultation.
RELATED CRIMINAL CODE SECTIONS
76-2-101 - Mens Rea Requirements
76-2-303 - Entrapment as an Affirmative DefenseMore Utah Criminal Code Provisions