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1816. Defenses -- Duress

The courts have generally been unwilling to recognize duress as a defense to escape except in the most egregious of situations. As a general rule, one who escapes from a penal institution is not excused even though faced with an immediate threat of death or serious bodily harm if there is a reasonable and viable alternative to the act of escaping. See United States v. Bryan, 591 F.2d 1161, 1163 (5th Cir. 1979), cert. denied, 444 U.S. 1071 (1980); United States v. Boomer, 571 F.2d 543 (10th Cir.), cert. denied, 436 U.S. 911 (1978); United States v. Michelson, 559 F.2d 567, 569 (9th Cir. 1977); and United States v. Chapman, 455 F.2d 746, 749 (5th Cir. 1972).

An indispensable element of such a defense is evidence of a bona fide effort to surrender or return to custody as soon as the claimed duress or necessity has lost its coercive force. United States v. Bailey, 444 U.S. 394 (1980); United States v. Garza, 664 F.2d 135. 141 (7th Cir. 1981), cert. denied, 455 U.S. 993 (1982); United States v. Trapnell, 638 F.2d 1016, 1030 (7th Cir. 1980).

[cited in Criminal Resource Manual 1826; JM 9-69.500]

Updated January 17, 2020