I Was Charged As An Accomplice. What Do I Do?

[playht_listen_button]So there you are, flipping through TV channels when you see your face pop up on the news. Your eyes bulge. You’re being charged as an accomplice to a grocery store robbery and felony murder. You can’t believe it. After all, you merely told your roommate that the grocery store didn’t have security, and you gave your roommate a ski mask, but you didn’t participate in the robbery. You were at home. As California law has it, however, you may still be an accomplice. To learn more about this law in California, keep reading.

What It Means

California’s Penal Code 31 states that you may not aid or abet the commission of criminal conduct. If you do, you’ll be charged as an accomplice to that crime. If you find yourself charged as an accomplice to a crime, it means the state believes you’ve encouraged, facilitated, or aided the commission of an unlawful act. The state will look to certain factors to prove that you’re an accomplice. These factors are that:

  • You knew about the crime,
  • You encouraged the crime and helped in a significant manner, and
  • You were present at the crime scene as the crime occurred.

All or most of these factors must be true. Suppose you only knew that a crime was about to occur, but you didn’t provide any encouragement, such as driving the individual to the crime scene or providing the individual with a weapon. In that case, it is unlikely you’ll be considered an accomplice. On the other hand, if you had knowledge of the crime and encouraged it, such as by drawing out a map of the bank that’s supposed to be robbed, then there is a greater chance you’ll be considered an accomplice, even if you were not present when the crime occurred.

Same Charge or Separate Charge?

When you’re charged as an accomplice under Penal Code 31, you’re put in the same boat as the direct perpetrator. You’ll face the same charge(s) and punishment. For example, if the perpetrator is charged with felony murder and is looking at serving life behind bars, although you may not have been there to see the murder occur, you risk facing life behind bars, as well.

Defenses To Beat Charge of Accomplice

As with any criminal charge, there are defenses that you may raise. When raising a defense, it’s ideal to examine what the state must prove. You must challenge those points. Call (888) 702-8882 or contact My Rights Law online for a free consultation regarding what specific defenses may apply to you. Here are some possible defenses to take note of:

I Didn’t Know

In the matter where being an accomplice requires knowledge of the crime, you may argue that you didn’t know about the crime. Perhaps a friend left you a voicemail saying they were about to burglarize a store and needed your car to do so. But you never checked your voicemail messages, so you were entirely unaware when you handed your friend the keys to your vehicle and what they planned to do with it.

I Wasn’t There

The “I wasn’t there” defense is a little trickier. As stated, you don’t necessarily have to be present at the crime scene if you knew about the criminal conduct and encouraged it. Yet, let’s say that part of you aiding and abetting the crime demanded that you be present at the crime scene. Maybe you were the ringleader or the only person with a weapon, and a weapon was necessary for the crime to occur, or only you had knowledge of a specific passcode to get into a building or safe. There is a possibility, under certain circumstances, that you may raise this defense.

I’m Falsely Accused, It Wasn’t Me

Another possible defense is arguing that you weren’t involved at all. This might be a case of mistaken identity. It may even be an outright lie—you’re falsely accused.

You’ll need a lot of evidence and professional experience acquiring favorable witnesses and cross-examining unfavorable witnesses. This is something you should leave to an expert California attorney.

I Withdrew And Tried To Stop It From Occurring

In California, you can argue that, although you had knowledge of and encouraged the commission of criminal conduct, you still shouldn’t be charged as an accomplice because you:

  • Withdrew from the crime,
  • Informed the other participant(s) of your intention to withdraw, and
  • Took meaningful steps to prevent the crime from occurring.

All these elements must be true if you wish to use this defense. The question is whether you took meaningful steps to prevent the crime from occurring. The judge may agree that alerting the police a day before the crime occurred is a meaningful step. Yet, the judge may not agree that running up to a security guard mere seconds before the crime occurs and informing them of what’s about to happen is a meaningful step. Because this is a complex matter, you’ll need legal representation from knowledgeable California experts.

California Criminal Defense Attorneys

My Rights Law has helped many people in California who have faced criminal charges, including being charged as an accomplice. We can give you peace of mind knowing that a trained legal professional is fighting on your behalf to get you the best possible outcome considering your circumstances. The skilled criminal defense attorneys at My Rights Law are ready to go to work for you today. If you are charged as an accomplice in a California criminal matter, get in touch with us by calling (888) 702-8882 or contacting us online without delay.