duress (dyŏˈrĭs, dŏˈ–, dŏrĕsˈ) [key], in law, actual or threatened violence or imprisonment, by reason of which a person is forced to enter into an agreement or to perform some other act against his will. The constraint or threat of constraint must have been directed toward the person thus compelled or toward the wife, husband, parent, child, or other near relative of the person compelled. Anyone who makes a contract under duress is entitled to void it and be free of its obligations, but in order to release him from the contract duress must be shown to have overcome his mind and will. However, annoyance and persuasion do not constitute duress. See also coercion.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.