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Being an Accomplice Can Send You to Prison

Sept. 16, 2016

Many people are unaware of the consequences they can face if they are accused of being an accomplice to another person's criminal act. Some may have heard of the term "aiding and abetting," which is the same concept.

Basically, this means that even if you personally didn't commit a crime, your actions assisted another individual to do so. The accomplice can stand accused of the same charge as the one who actually did the crime, and the penalties can be just as stiff upon conviction. Juries and judges weigh whether the evidence supports the prosecution's allegations that the accomplice voluntarily and intentionally assisted and facilitated the crime to be committed, or even just failed to stop it from happening, in some cases.

There are certain elements that must be present for accomplice liability to be proven. While states have minor discrepancies, the premise lies with the below four elements:

-- A crime must have been committed by someone else;

-- The alleged accomplice "aided, counseled, commanded, or encouraged" the other individual in the act of committing the crime;

-- The alleged accomplice acted with the mental state required in that jurisdiction to purposefully or knowingly assist with committing the crime.

To better understand the concept, the following are some hypothetical examples of aiding and abetting and accomplice liability:

-- Turning off the alarm system at the business where you work so thieves can enter easily later.

-- Being the getaway driver during a bank robbery.

-- Instructing a car to pull down to a dead-end when you know someone is waiting to rob the driver.

-- Providing a gun to a person who you are aware plans to use it to commit a crime.

If you find yourself in this unfortunate legal position, it is vital that you work closely with your criminal defense attorney to avoid a conviction on the charge(s).

Source: Findlaw, "What is Complicity or Accomplice Liability?," accessed Sep. 16, 2016