Florida Bank Robbery-Kidnapping Scam Shows Importance Of Criminal Duress Defense

A unidentified desperate Orange County man robbed a Fairwinds Credit Union thought his family was being held hostage after he received a threatening phone call from someone soliciting ransom money. The man, thinking there was no other alternative, walked into bank and handed the teller a hand-written note, that allegedly said enough to compel the teller to hit the silent alarm. Deputies took the man into custody, where he told his story of how he needed the money or the kidnapper would harm his family. Investigators think he was the victim of a common kidnapping scam that begins with an unknown caller making threats about a family member involved in a crash or some other incident.

Kidnapping scams are common in Florida and harm countless citizens and families. Initially created by prisoners in Puerto Rican prisons, this particular style of scam has produced mimics and transformed to comprise of new, more horrific acts that can send anyone’s mind on edge. For many, this means committing Florida theft crimes or other crimes in order to ensure their family’s safety. imagescellscam.jpg

In this case, there is no denying that the unidentified man was attempting to rob the bank. However, it is clear that he did not want to rob the credit union under his own volition, but because of fear for his family. Many may think that they are guaranteed to see criminal penalties for an action like this, even though they did not intend it.

In this case, an invaluable defense is available to one charged under Florida Law. This is the affirmative “necessity” or “duress” defense. Under this defense, one may admit that he committed the criminal act while still maintaining that he is not criminally liable because the defense of necessity or duress excuses the crime.

Under Florida law, it is a defense to a criminal charge if the defendant committed an act out of necessity or duress. In order to properly use the duress defense, the defendant must establish that:

– One reasonably believed under the circumstances that an immediate emergency or danger existed which threatened significant hard to one or another person (one’s family typically will suffice);
– One did not intentionally cause the emergency or danger;
– One had no way to avoid the emergency or danger except by committing the crime charged; AND
– The harm one sought to avoid by committing the criminal act outweighed the harm caused by committing the criminal act.

The reason for this particular criminal defense is that when one is in an emergency situation where one or one’s loved ones are in serious danger, one is forced into an extremely tough and unreasonable situation. These are situations in which one finds oneself confronted with a choice of two evils: committing a criminal offense such as a theft, alcohol or drug related crime by law with a harmful result, or, follow the law and possibly allow in the process an even greater harm.

When one is charged with a criminal offense of this nature, the choices one makes at the beginning of one’s case can greatly impact the direction of one’s case, especially one’s choice of an experienced Jacksonville scam crime defense attorney.


The Forbess Law Firm has been aiding clients who face criminal charges in Jacksonville for years and is here to provide aggressive criminal defense to anyone accused of a crime. If you or a loved one requires a Jacksonville criminal defense lawyer, contact our firm today. We are available through our website or by calling us at 904-634-0900.

Additional Sources: Scammers tricked man into thinking his son was in danger, Arelis R. Hernández and Desiree Stennett, The Orlando Sun-Sentinel