Let's say you are a judge presiding over case regarding crimes committed by a criminal group. Then, the criminal group tells you to not give them a harsh sentence or else they will get back at you by hurting people that are close to you.

Since they are a powerful and resourceful group of criminals, you take their threat seriously and decide to be on their side. Can you be punished for doing so if it was discovered afterwards? What if they force you to take money, to make it seem like you took a bribe?

Note that you really want to protect your family and friends, and you know that any federal organisation (FBI, CIA, etc) will not be able to reliably protect them (since the criminals are very resourceful).

  • 6
    That is not a bribe, that's called blackmail.
    – Ron Trunk
    Commented Nov 6, 2020 at 20:19

2 Answers 2


There is a defense against criminal charges, the defense of coercion. In Washington state (under the name "duress")

(1) In any prosecution for a crime, it is a defense that: (a) The actor participated in the crime under compulsion by another who by threat or use of force created an apprehension in the mind of the actor that in case of refusal he or she or another would be liable to immediate death or immediate grievous bodily injury; and (b) That such apprehension was reasonable upon the part of the actor; and (c) That the actor would not have participated in the crime except for the duress involved.

  • 1
    The actions the OP describes lacks the “immediate” factor the statute requires.
    – Dale M
    Commented Nov 7, 2020 at 11:04
  • 1
    @DaleM Though an imperfect duress defense is still relevant for sentencing. Commented Nov 10, 2020 at 23:25

This isn’t bribery

Bribery is the offer of something of value in return for corruptly performing your job.

It isn’t duress either

To qualify as duress the threat of harm must be “immediate and inescapable” - a gun to your head right now is; the threat of a gun in the future isn’t.

It doesn’t matter how likely that threat of future harm may be, either objectively or subjectively, it isn’t “immediate and inescapable”. Options exist for enhanced security up to and including witness protection.

If you cave in to that threat, you have acted corruptly and can be charged and convicted.

Ultimately, all jobs have risk.

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