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Accomplice Liability

Published on May 22nd, 2019

Criminal Defense Lawyer Bloomington, Illinois

One thing that we have always been taught growing up is that we are responsible for our own actions and we cannot control what others may do. Though this may be correct generally, legally, criminal responsibility may apply to you based on others’ actions. State law says that it is not only the person who commits an offense or a crime who may be held criminally liable, but a party who may provide support or encourage during the commission of the crime may also be found to be criminally responsible for the crime committed by another. This is known as complicity, whereby a third party may be charged for a violation of an offense or crime even though he may not have actually committed the crime.

Complicity law applies criminal liability to conduct of a third party who satisfies one of the three elements of criminal responsibility:

  1. The third party acts in a way that causes, encourages, or aids an innocent party to engage in the actions required to commit the offense.
  2. The third party’s actions aid, assist, direct, solicit, or encourage another party to commit a crime with the intention that the criminal act be committed.
  3. The third party has a legal duty to prevent the commission of the crime, but not only does not prevent the commission of the crime, but aids, assists, and encourages the criminal actions of another.

The criminal liability of the accomplice is not limited to the encouragement, assistance, or promotion of the intended crime. If there is more than one actor involved in the commission of a crime, the accomplice may be criminally liable for any unintended (although foreseeable) crimes that occur in furtherance of the intended crime.

For example, if the intended crime was to rob a bank while armed, the killing of a bank teller during the commission of the robbery may not have been an intended action by the accomplice, but it was reasonably foreseeable that someone could have been shot and killed during an armed robbery.

When prosecuting someone as an accomplice, many factors need to be assessed. First and foremost, an actor’s mere presence at the scene of the crime does not automatically apply complicity onto them for another’s actions. There must be specific and articulable unlawful actions or omissions that must be attributed to the alleged accomplice himself.

Accomplices also may have an affirmative defense available; the burden of proof is on the charged accomplice to show that he or she:

  • Took actions that were a voluntary and complete renunciation.
  • Abandoned the criminal act.
  • Withdrew at some point before the commission of crime.
  • Took affirmative action to stop or prevent the commission of the crime.

Showing that the criminal act was postponed for another date or the charged accomplice substituting his role with that of another will not be sufficient evidence to show that he abandoned, withdrew, and renunciated the criminal act.

Let a Criminal Defense Attorney Help

If you have been arrested as an accomplice for a crime that another has committed, please contact an experienced criminal defense lawyer in Bloomington, Illinois from Pioletti Pioletti & Nichols as soon as possible. An experienced lawyer will be able to evaluate the actions that you took in relation to the crime committed by another, to advise you on the next steps in your proceedings, and to determine if the affirmative defense of renunciation applies.


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