RI X. F. Duress or Necessity

NOTE: Many states have standardized jury instructions that are prepared by legal experts under the supervision of the State’s Supreme Court.  Such jury instructions are prepared by independent third-parties, not by the prosecution or the defense, and thus can be considered “neutral” between those adversarial parties..  

Rhode Island does not have standardized criminal jury instructions of this “neutral” type. All that is available is a series of jury instruction prepared by the Rhode Island Department of Attorney General.  As a result, they do not represent the perspective of the defense, and thus do not share the “neutral” aspect of genuine standardized jury instructions.  They were also last updated in 2000, and thus are rather dated.  

Nevertheless, given that these are all that is available in the context of self-defense jury instructions, we provide them here. 

RI X. F. Duress or Necessity

If the defendant did not commit the criminal act with which he or she is charged willingly or voluntarily, but as the result of coercion exerted on him or her, then he or she may not be criminally responsible for that act.

Depending on your assessment of the evidence before you, that evidence may provide the defendant with a legal excuse for the crimes alleged.  Not every claim of coercion or duress relieves the defendant of the criminal responsibility for committing an illegal act.  In order to excuse the defendant, the claim requires that the defendant [committed/participated] in this offense as the result of a reasonable belief:

1. That he or she would suffer immediate serious bodily injury or death if he or she did not [commit/participate in] the crime; and

2. That he or she has no reasonable opportunity to escape the danger or retreat from the situation before taking those actions.

Remember that the defendant is not obliged to prove the defense of duress. If you believe that evidence of duress is present, then the State must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant did not [commit/participate in] the criminal act charged under such type of coercion.