"If you do the crime, do the time," is one old adage. But sometimes you can face the same penalties as the one who actually did the crime even if you did not.
While that may not seem fair to some, it applies under the law of accomplice liability, or aiding and abetting, as it is often referred. The courts view those that willingly help others commit a crime to share the liability of that guilt. In some circumstances, simply failing to prevent the person from committing a crime can leave you vulnerable to being charged with a crime.
Prosecutors usually must prove certain elements to convict people as alleged accomplices. They are:
-- Another person committed the crime.
-- A separate person "aided, counseled, commanded or encouraged" the first person to commit the crime.
-- This person purposefully or knowingly assisted in the crime.
Below are some ways that a person could be complicit in a crime.
-- If he or she works in a liquor store and disables the alarm, thus enabling his or her partners to rob it later.
-- Driving the getaway car after a bank heist.
-- Leading a "mark" to a deserted area where others lurk, waiting to rob the person.
-- Providing the gun that another person uses to shoot a victim.
If you are accused of aiding and abetting another person's crime, it is imperative that you seek out legal advice in order to be able to present a valid and plausible defense to the allegations. Often the prosecutor will agree to make a deal with one or more of the defendants to get them to testify against the others. Your future relies on a vigorous defense launched immediately following your arrest.
Source: Findlaw, "What is Complicity or Accomplice Liability?," accessed July 29, 2016