Complicity is the act of helping or encouraging another individual to commit a crime. It is also commonly referred to as aiding and abetting. One who is complicit is said to be an accomplice. But, even though an accomplice does not actually commit the crime, his or her actions helped someone in the commission of the crime.
The concept of accomplice liability means an accomplice faces the same degree of guilt and punishment as the individual who committed the crime. Indeed, accomplices can face the same penalties, including prison time. The key consideration is whether the individual intentionally and voluntarily encouraged or assisted in the commission of the crime, or (in some cases) failed to prevent it.
Elements of Accomplice Liability
With some variations, depending on the state, a prosecutor must be able to prove the following four elements in order to convict someone for being an accomplice or aiding and abetting:
A crime was committed by another individual;
The defendant “aided, counseled, commanded, or encouraged” the other person in the commission of the crime.
The defendant acted with the requisite mental state in their jurisdiction,for example, knowingly or purposefully, to assist in the crime (see Mens Rea – A Defendant’s Mental State).
The following examples illustrate the many ways an individual may be an accomplice to a criminal act: 1) Serving as the getaway driver in a bank robbery; 2) Turning off the alarm system of a jewelry store in which you work, knowing that it will be robbed later that evening; 3) Loaning a handgun to someone who you know is planning to commit a crime and/or 4) Directing a vehicle to a dead-end street where you know an armed carjacker is waiting.
When an individual takes on an active role in the planning of a crime, the crime may instead be one of conspiracy. A conspirator agrees with others to commit a future crime, while an accomplice assists, in some way, in the actual commission of a crime. Furthermore, unlike accomplices to a crime, conspirators can be guilty even if their plan is not completed.
If you or a loved one is in a bind as a result of a criminal charge, immediately contact a Seattle Criminal Attorney. A Criminal lawyer is not going to judge you, and understands that everyone makes mistakes. Hiring a Seattle Criminal Lawyer to help can – at a minimum – reduce penalties, and can help direct people on how to best deal with their criminal charge, and many times even get them dismissed. So it should go without saying that someone cited for a misdemeanor or felony should hire a qualified Seattle Criminal Lawyer as soon as possible. Criminal charges can cause havoc on a person’s personal and professional life. Anyone charged with a crime in Washington State should immediately seek the assistance of a seasoned Seattle Criminal Lawyer.