Many people are surprised to discover criminal charges against them for crimes they did not commit. An accomplice to a crime is a person who intentionally facilitates a criminal act by another person. Whether this person helps or encourages the person committing the crime, he may eventually face consequences that are as serious as if he had committed the crime himself.
Generally, state laws refer to main perpetrators of crimes as “principals” and the people who help them as “accomplices.” In Florida, the terminology used varies from most other states.
Under §777.011 of the Florida Statutes, an accomplice to a crime may be considered a “principal in the first degree,” meaning he or she may be charged, convicted, and punished as if he or she is the main perpetrator in a crime, whether or not he or she is present when the perpetrator carries out an offense. Let’s take a look at ways you might be considered an accomplice to a criminal act in Florida.
How Can I Face Charges if I Didn’t Commit a Crime?
The way Florida law describes accomplices can be confusing. Under Florida law, the main perpetrator in a crime is the “principal in the first degree;” however, this term is not reserved for him alone. Anyone who “aids, abets, counsels, hires, or otherwise procures such offense to be committed” is considered a “principal in the first degree” and stands to face the same charges, conviction, and punishment as the main perpetrator in a criminal case.
Additionally, “aiding and abetting” is a common phrase for referencing criminal accomplice liability. There are different types of aiding and abetting offenses for which an accomplice may be held accountable:
Accessory Before the Fact
An accessory before the fact is a person who is not immediately related to the main perpetrator. This person knows a felony will be committed and may aid or assist the main perpetrator in avoiding detection by law enforcement. This person is not present at the crime scene.
Accessory After the Fact
An accessory after the fact is a person who is not immediately related to the main perpetrator who, knowing that a crime has been committed, intentionally helps the main perpetrator avoid or escape detection, arrest, trial, or punishment.
A person may face criminal charges for aiding and abetting by participating in the crime a few different ways:
- Coming up with the idea to commit the offense
- Commanding someone to commit the offense
- Hiring someone to commit the offense
- Instigating the commission of the offense
- Providing advice on how to carry out the offense
- Concealing the offense before or after the fact
- Purchasing materials needed to commit the crime
Three essential elements are necessary to prove accomplice liability in Florida. They are:
- The crime in question was committed
- The accused had the specific intent to facilitate the commission of the crime by another person
- The accused assisted or participated in the commission of the offense
Accomplices and Conspirators
Accomplices are not considered conspirators. A conspiracy occurs when two or more principal offenders actively conspire to plan and commit a crime at a future date. A co-conspirator helps in committing the crime itself, while an accomplice makes it easier for the main perpetrator to commit the crime but plays no role in committing the crime himself.
The consequences of being an accomplice, or aiding and abetting, can be drastic and vary based upon the severity of the offense committed. Discuss your aiding and abetting charge with a criminal defense lawyer in West Palm Beach to understand exactly what you face and get the representation you need to achieve the best possible outcome. Call 561-622-5575 for a free consultation.