Legal Definition and Related Resources of Duress

Meaning of Duress

imprisonment , compulsion . It consists in any illegal imprisonment, or legal imprisonment used for an illegal purpose, or threats of bodily or other harm, or other means amounting to or tending to coerce the will of another, and actually inducing him to do an act contrary to his free will. An act done under duress does not have any general legal effect which it would otherwise have. Thus a contract entered into by a man under duress may be afterwards avoided by him.

Duress Alternative Definition

Personal restraint, or fear of personal injury or imprisonment. 2 Mete. (Ky.) 445. Deprivation of one of his freedom of will and act by the unlawful acts of another. Duress exists where one is induced by another’s unlawful act to make a contract or perform some act under circumstances which prevent his exercising free will. 45 Mich. 569. Duress of Imprisonment. That which exists where a man actually loses his liberty. If a man be illegally deprived of his liberty until he sign and seal a bond, or the like, he may allege this duress, and avoid the bond. 2 Bay (S. C.) 211; 9 Johns. (N. Y.) 201; 10 Pet. (U. S.) 137. But if a man be, illegally imprisoned, and, either to procure his discharge, or on any other fair account, seal a bond or a deed, this is not by duress of imprisonment, and he is not at liberty to avoid it. Coke, 2d Inst. 482; 3 Caines (N. Y.) 168; 6 Mass. 511; 1 Lev. 69; 1 Hen. & M. (Va.) 350; 17 Me. 338. Where the proceedings at law are a mere pretext, the instrument may be avoided. 1 Bl. Comm. 136. Duress per Minas. That which is either for fear or loss of life, or else for fear of mayhem or loss of limb, must be upon a sufficient reason. 1 Bl. Comm. 131. In this case, a man may avoid his own act. Lord Coke enumerates four instances in which a man may avoid his own act by reason of menaces, for fear of loss of life; of member; of mayhem; of imprisonment. Coke, 2d Inst. 483; 2 Rolle, Abr. 124; Bac. Abr. Duress, Murder (A) ; 2 Strange, 856; Fost, Crim. Law, 322; 2 Ld. Raym. 1578; Savigny, Dr. Rom. § 114. Duress of Goods. Restraint of goods under circumstances of peculiar hardship, which will avoid a contract. 2 Bay (S. C.) 211; 9 Johns. (N. Y.) 201; 10 Pet. (U. S.) 137. But see 2 Mete. (Ky.) 445; 2 Gall. (U. S.) 337.

Synonyms of Duress


  • bondage
  • captivity
  • coaction
  • coercion
  • compulsion
  • confinement
  • constraint
  • control
  • dominance
  • enforcement
  • exaction
  • force
  • high pressure
  • impressment
  • necessitation
  • obligation
  • press
  • pressure
  • repression
  • requirement
  • restriction
  • stress
  • subjection
  • subjugation
  • threat
  • Associated Concepts: actionable duress
  • business compulsion
  • defense of duress
  • duress of goods
  • duress of property
  • legal duress
  • moral duress
  • payment under duress
  • undue influenceforeign phrases: Vani timores sunt aestimandi
  • qui non cadunt in constantem virum
  • Those fears are to be regarded as groundless which do not affect an ordinary man
  • Nihil consensui tam contrarium est quam vis atque metus
  • Nothing is so contrary to consent as force and fear
  • Vani timorisjusta excusatio non est
  • A frivolous fear is not a lawful excuse

Definition of Duress in the Free Online Notary Dictionary

Unlawful Restraint Or Action Placed Upon A Person By Which The Person Is Forced To Perform An Act Against His/her Free Will (i.e. Person Threatening To Injure Another If Something Is Not Done.)

Find similar definitions of the Duress concept in the Notary Dictionary, to be used to allow for comparison of legal terms meanings.

Related Entries of Duress in the Encyclopedia of Law Project

Browse or run a search for Duress in the American Encyclopedia of Law, the Asian Encyclopedia of Law, the European Encyclopedia of Law, the UK Encyclopedia of Law or the Latin American and Spanish Encyclopedia of Law.

Duress in Historical Law

You might be interested in the historical meaning of this term. Browse or search for Duress in Historical Law in the Encyclopedia of Law.

Legal Abbreviations and Acronyms

Search for legal acronyms and/or abbreviations containing Duress in the Legal Abbreviations and Acronyms Dictionary.

Related Legal Terms

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Duress in the Dictionary Duress in our legal dictionaries
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Related topics Duress in the World Encyclopedia of Law


This definition of Duress is based on the The Cyclopedic Law Dictionary . This entry needs to be proofread.

Vocabularies (Semantic Web Information)


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English Spanish Translation of Duress

Coacción, violencia física

Find other English to Spanish translations from the Pocket Spanish English Legal Dictionary (print and online), the English to Spanish to English dictionaries (like Duress) and the Word reference legal translator.


See Also

  • Law Dictionaries.
  • Threats.


  • Duress in Law Enforcement

    Main Entry: Law Enforcement in the Legal Dictionary. This section provides, in the context of Law Enforcement, a partial definition of duress.


    See Also

    • Law Enforcement Officer
    • Policeman
    • Law Enforcement Agency

    Further Reading

    English Legal System: Duress

    In the context of the English law, A Dictionary of Law provides the following legal concept of Duress :

    Pressure, especially actual or threatened physical force, put on a person to act in a particular way. Acts carried out under duress usually have no legal effect; for example, a contract obtained by duress is voidable (See also economic duress; undue influence). In criminal law, when the defendant’s power to resist is destroyed by a threat of death or serious personal injury, he will have a defence to a criminal charge, although he has the *mens rea for the crime and knows that what he is doing is wrong. Duress is not a defence to a charge of murder as a principal (i.e. to someone who actually carries out the murder himself), although it is still a defence to someone charged with aiding and abetting murder. The threat need not be immediate; it is sufficient that it is effective; for example a threat in court to kill a witness may constitute duress and thus be a defence to a charge of perjury, even though it cannot be carried out in the courtroom. However, the defence is unavailable to someone who failed to take available alternative action to avoid the threat.

    See also coercion; necessity; self-defence.



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