California Legal Definition of Duress
In People v. Pitmon (1985) 170 Cal.App.3d 38, the court defined duress to be "a direct or implied threat of force, violence, danger, hardship or retribution sufficient to coerce a reasonable person of ordinary susceptibilities to:
(1) perform an act which otherwise would not have been performed or, (2) acquiesce in an act to which one otherwise would not have submitted." (Id. at p. 50; People v. Cochran (2002) 103 Cal.App.4th 8, 13.)
In Cochran, the court cited the Pitmon definition and held that the trier of fact must consider the totality of the circumstances, including the victim's age and relationship to defendant, to determine if there was duress.
"Other relevant factors include threats to harm the victim, physically controlling the victim when the victim attempts to resist, and warnings to the victim that revealing the molestation would result in jeopardizing the family. " (Cochran, supra, 103 Cal.App.4th at p. 14.)
In People v. Senior (1992) 3 Cal.App.4th 765, the court discussed the definition of "duress" as follows: "Physical control can create 'duress' without constituting 'force.' 'Duress' would be redundant in the cited statutes if its meaning were no different than 'force,' 'violence,' 'menace,' or 'fear of immediate and unlawful bodily injury.' As the jury here was instructed, 'duress' has been defined as 'a direct or implied threat of force, violence, danger, hardship or retribution sufficient to coerce a reasonable person of ordinary susceptibilities to first, perform an act which otherwise would not have been performed, or, second, acquiesced sic in an act to which one otherwise would not have submitted.'
As the Court recognized in People v. Superior Court (1990) 219 Cal.App.3d 235, 268. . . duress involves psychological coercion. Duress can arise from various circumstances, including the relationship between the defendant and the victim and their relative ages and sizes. 'Where the defendant is a family member and the victim is young . . . the position of dominance and authority of the defendant and his continuous exploitation of the victim' is relevant to the existence of duress. " (Id. at p. 775.)