du·ress /du̇-'res, dyu̇-/ n [Anglo-French duresce, literally, hardness, harshness, from Old French, from Latin duritia, from durus hard]: wrongful and usu. unlawful compulsion (as threats of physical violence) that induces a person to act against his or her will: coercion; also: the affirmative defense of having acted under duress see also economic duress compare necessity, undue influence
◇ A person may be able to avoid the consequences of his or her acts under the law if they were performed while under duress. For example, a contract made under duress is voidable by the coerced party. Similarly, a will signed under duress is invalid. Duress may also be used to justify a criminal act. A threat to bring a lawsuit is not duress.

Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary of Law. . 1996.

I noun 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 influence foreign phrases:
- Vani timores sunt aestimandl, qui non cadunt in constantem virum. — Those fears are to be regarded as groundless which do not affect an ordinary man.
- Nihii consensu I tarn contrarium est quam vis atque metus. — Nothing is so contrary to consent as force and fear
- Vani timoris justa excusatio non est — A frivolous fear is not a lawful excuse
II index captivity, coercion, compulsion (coercion), constraint (restriction), force (compulsion), intimidate, main force, pressure, stress (strain), subjection

Burton's Legal Thesaurus. . 2006

Conduct intended to force someone to do something he or she does not want to do, such as threat of violence or coercion.

The Essential Law Dictionary. — Sphinx Publishing, An imprint of Sourcebooks, Inc. . 2008.

pressure to act in a certain way, in particular where there is an element of physical force. It has different effect in different branches of different legal systems.
In English criminal law, duress is a defence, albeit limited, to criminal charges: Hudson v . Taylor [1971] 2 QB 202. The fear induced by the duress must be extreme. The focus is on a reasonable person sharing the characteristics of the accused taking the defence. The phrase 'morally involuntary' may reflect the test applied by the courts. It is not available in cases of murder: R v. Howe and Others [1987] 1 AC 417.
In Scots criminal law, the defence is known under the name of coercion. The requirements are that there should be an inability to resist the threatened violence, the accused must not take a leading part in the crime, and the accused must do his best to disclose the crime and make amends when safe to do so: Thomson v . HMA 1983 JC 69. Whether or not the plea is available in the case of murder is not decided.
In the law of contract, its primary denotation is of actual violence or threats of violence towards the contracting party or those close to him: Welch v. Cheesman (1974) 229 Estates Gazette 99. The effect is to allow the contract to be avoided. The notion of economic duress has gained ground, reflecting the fact that economic pressure can affect conduct and be reprehensible. The difficulty with this, however, is that the free market capitalism that underlies many systems is rather tolerant of such conduct. See Universal Tankships Inc. of Morovia v. International Transport Workers Federation [1982] WLR 803. It can be seen from the last-noted case that the law of restitution recognises duress as an unjust factor that may bring about a restitutionary award. See undue influence.

Collins dictionary of law. . 2001.

The use of force, false imprisonment, coercion, threats, or psychological pressure to compel someone to act contrary to his or her wishes or interests. If, for example, duress is used to make a person sign an agreement or execute a will, a court may find the document null and void. A defendant in a criminal prosecution may raise the defense that others used duress to force him or her to take part in a crime.
Category: Small Claims Court & Lawsuits

Nolo’s Plain-English Law Dictionary. . 2009.

n. The application of force, or the threat of force, to compel another to act against his or her will. Used as a defense in criminal and contractual matters, for example, that a defendant participated in a crime because held at gunpoint, or signed a contract only under the threat of physical harm.
See also economic duress.

Webster's New World Law Dictionary. . 2000.

Unlawful pressure exerted upon a person to coerce that person to perform an act that he or she ordinarily would not perform.

Dictionary from West's Encyclopedia of American Law. 2005.

Unlawful pressure exerted upon a person to coerce that person to perform an act that he or she ordinarily would not perform.

Short Dictionary of (mostly American) Legal Terms and Abbreviations.

   the use of force, false imprisonment or threats (and possibly psychological torture or "brainwashing") to compel someone to act contrary to his/her wishes or interests. If duress is used to get someone to sign an agreement or execute a will, a court may find the document null and void. A defendant in a criminal prosecution may raise the defense that others used duress to force him/her to take part 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 joined her captors in a bank holdup and issued statements justifying her actions. She was later convicted of the bank robbery, but was eventually pardoned by President Jimmy Carter.

Law dictionary. . 2013.

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • duress — du‧ress [djʊˈres ǁ dʊ ] noun [uncountable] LAW the illegal or unfair use of force or threats to make someone do something: • He claimed that he had signed the contract under duress. * * * duress UK US /djʊˈres/ noun [U] LAW ► threats used to… …   Financial and business terms

  • Duress — Du*ress , v. t. To subject to duress. The party duressed. Bacon. [1913 Webster] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Duress — Du ress, n. [OF. duresse, du?, hardship, severity, L. duritia, durities, fr. durus hard. See {Dure}.] 1. Hardship; constraint; pressure; imprisonment; restraint of liberty. [1913 Webster] The agreements . . . made with the landlords during the… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • duress — ► NOUN ▪ threats or violence used to coerce a person into doing something: confessions extracted under duress. ORIGIN originally in the sense harshness, cruel treatment : from Latin durus hard …   English terms dictionary

  • duress — [doo res′, dyoores′] n. [ME dures < OFr durece < L duritia, hardness, harshness < durus, hard < IE base * deru , tree, oak (orig. ? hard) > TREE] 1. imprisonment 2. the use of force or threats; compulsion [a confession signed under …   English World dictionary

  • duress — early 14c., harsh or severe treatment, from O.Fr. duresse, from L. duritia hardness, from durus hard (see ENDURE (Cf. endure)). Sense of coercion, compulsion is from 1590s …   Etymology dictionary

  • duress — constraint, coercion, compulsion, violence, *force, restraint …   New Dictionary of Synonyms

  • duress — [n] threat, hardship bondage, captivity, coercion, compulsion, confinement, constraint, control, detention, discipline, force, imprisonment, incarceration, pressure, restraint, violence; concepts 14,674 …   New thesaurus

  • Duress — For English law on the criminal defences, see duress in English law. For the American film, see Duress (film) …   Wikipedia

  • duress — Any unlawful threat or coercion used by a person to induce another to act (or to refrain from acting) in a manner he or she otherwise would not (or would). Subjecting person to improper pressure which overcomes his will and coerces him to comply… …   Black's law dictionary

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