Adams Law Group, llc

The Coercion Defense in Wisconsin

Under a few, limited circumstances someone may be found “not guilty” under Wisconsin law even if they undoubtedly committed the crime. Wisconsin’s criminal code codifies a few of these limited circumstances including: self-defense, not guilty by reason of mental disease or defect, and coercion.

What is coercion? Wisconsin statute 939.46 and Wisconsin Pattern Jury Instruction 790 give the following definition:

“The defense of coercion allows a person to engage in conduct that would otherwise be criminal under certain circumstances.”

What are those circumstances?

Only if a threat by another person (not a co-conspirator) caused the defendant to believe his act was the only means of preventing death or great bodily harm to himself for others – and the pressure of the threat cause him to commit the crime.

Obviously, this defense is seldom used. However, under Wisconsin law, once the defense provides evidence that could show that a reasonable jury could conclude coercion was present – the burden shifts and it falls on the State to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the coercion was absent.

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