Marital Coercion Law and Legal Definition

Marital coercion means coercion of the wife by the husband. It is used as a statutory defense to a crime which states that an offence committed by a wife in the presence of her husband is committed under the coercion of the husband. In actions for damages arising from the wrongful act of a married woman, a husband and wife must be joined as defendants. If, in the commission of the tort, she acts under marital coercion, and such fact does not appear on the face of the petition, her defense must be made by answer. Hence, any act of a criminal nature, which a wife does in the presence of a husband, is prima facie presumed to be compelled by husband. The presumption that the wife when in the husband's presence acts under his coercion is only prima facie, liable to be rebutted by evidence. Therefore, the wife, like any other person, may be proceeded against jointly with her husband, in the same indictment, and she can rely on the coercion only when the proofs are adduced at the trial. Here, the proper proceeding is to plead marital coercion after all the evidence has been introduced before the judge or the jury, and then to request special instructions as to such defense.