What Are the Penalties for Being an Accomplice to a Crime?

Some crimes are committed by one person and some are coordinated by several actors. Different crimes may require more or less people to pull off, but in many cases, there is more than one person involved in the crime. To ensure all liable parties who contributed to a crime are prosecuted, California law allows the prosecution of all persons involved in a crime, regardless to what degree they were involved. In many crimes, there are multiple actors who have various roles. While not every role is a crime in and of itself, because it supports the crime being committed, it is incriminating. An accomplice is someone who aids or abets a crime, however they are still considered one of the principal actors involved in a crime. This means they, through action or inaction, supported, encouraged, assisted in or otherwise facilitated the commission of a crime. Those who act in this role are seen as having accomplice liability by virtue that they were willingly involved in criminal activity.

The punishments for being an accomplice to a crime will depend on the facts and circumstances of the case. How you were involved, to what degree, how much you knew about the crime, what the crime was and your criminal history would all affect your sentencing for being an accomplice to a crime. Unfortunately, in many cases, the accomplice is given the same punishments as the person who actually executed the crime. However, if you had a minor role in the crime, or were not aware of the significance of the crime, you may not be punished as harshly as those with more significant roles. In order for the prosecution to convict you of a crime by aiding and abetting, they must demonstrate you contributed to the commission of the crime, either directly or indirectly, with words or actions that encouraged or otherwise facilitated the crime. This is a very broad definition of aiding and abetting. You do not have to be actually present when the crime was committed, nor do you have to have been found with the executor of the crime. If you knew about the crime, but did not encourage, assist with or facilitate its commission, you cannot be charged as a principal actor of the crime. It may be difficult for the prosecution to prove you aided and abetted a crime, so it is important you speak to a criminal defense attorney about your case before pleading guilty. Key to all criminal convictions, you must have demonstrated intent to be an accomplice to the crime. If you unintentionally became involved in a crime, and took action to notify authorities in an attempt to stop it, you cannot be charged with being an accomplice to a crime because you took direct action to not assist its commission in any way.

Those who are not direct accomplices to the commission of a crime but rather are permissive of the criminal behavior after the crime has been committed can also be charged with a crime. Being permissive, even if not present when the crime was committed, by not reporting the crime to the authorities, makes you an accessory to the crime, but not a direct contributor. If you simply assisted the criminal behavior after the fact, you are seen as obstructing justice but are not considered a principal actor to the crime. Accordingly, the punishments for being an accessory to the crime after the fact are less than if you were an accomplice to the crime before or while it was committed. An accessory to a crime can face a fine of up to $5,000 and/or up to one year in a county jail. Sometimes, people who initially agreed to be an accomplice to a crime decide that it is no longer something they want to do. However, up until that point they could have been acting as an accomplice to the crime. You may still face criminal charges as an aider and abettor if you assisted in the crime before hand, but decided to withdrawal from your role. However, if you took action after you withdrew to prevent the crime from happening, you may be able to walk away with an accessory charge. Consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney if you are facing criminal charges for being an accomplice of or accessory to a crime. The prosecution must prove you assisted or encouraged the commission of the crime. A skilled attorney can evaluate the case facts and advise you on what strong evidence the prosecutor has against you and what your potential defense options are.

Are your or a loved one facing charges of aiding and abetting a crime in Tulare, Kings or Fresno County area? Visalia criminal defense attorney Christopher Martens can best advise you on how to proceed with your case. At The Law Offices of Christopher Martens, every client gets the respect they deserve. Attorney Martens has over ten years experience as a criminal defense attorney and has taken over 50 cases all the way to trial. Mr. Martens will not be afraid to fight for your rights in court. Contact our Visalia or Hanford offices at 559-967-7386 or email us at MartensLaw@gmail.com to discuss strategic options for your fighting your charges.