Duress Definition and Legal Meaning

On this page, you'll find the legal definition and meaning of Duress, written in plain English, along with examples of how it is used.

What is Duress?

n. Compelling someone to act against their wishes or interests through the use of force, false imprisonment or threats. A court may determine a document null and void if duress is used to get someone to execute a will or sign an agreement. Defendants may raise duress as their defense in partaking in an alleged crime. The most famous case is that of publishing heiress Patty Hearst, who was kidnapped, raped, imprisoned and psychologically tortured until she took part in a bank holdup with her captors and issued statements justifying her actions. She was later convicted of the bank robbery and was eventually pardoned by President Jimmy Carter.