The Doctrine of Pharmacological Duress: A Critical Analysis


The doctrine of pharmacological duress attempts to redefine the criminal responsibility of the confirmed narcotics addict in terms of the symptomatic compulsion to use and possess drugs and the consequent deterioration of the free will. With its roots deeply imbedded in the traditional exculpatory doctrines of duress, coercion and insanity, this doctrine promises to revolutionize the contemporary judicial approach to narcotics addiction and the crime it spawns.

This Note will explore the development of the concept of pharmacological duress, emphasizing its distinction from both the traditional defense of insanity and more recent attempts to construct a defense based on the eighth amendment. The failure to draw such a distinction in the past, it is submitted, has obfuscated the theory and resulted in a judicial reluctance to accept an otherwise viable defense. It is contended that in the future the parameters of this doctrine must be ascertained within the framework of traditional concepts such as duress and compulsion. Finally, an effort will be made to determine where the line of exculpation should be drawn.

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