Many criminal defendants are rightfully puzzled when they receive notice they have been changed with a crime they did not know they committed. Florida law recognizes the principle of accomplice liability, that is, the idea that one person can be charged with a crime even when they were not the person that actually even carried it out.
These scenarios lead to people that are even remotely involved in the commission of a crime being responsible for the commission of the entire crime.
Florida Accomplice Liability Law
First, let’s discuss what an accomplice is not. An accomplice is not the same thing as a co-conspirator. Conspiracy requires an agreement between two parties as well as an overt action in furtherance of the decided crime. The intent to commit the crime can be inferred from conduct between the two parties (buying a weapon, getting the getaway car). For accomplice liability, the required intent to be charged is only that the crime be committed. An accomplice generally aids or encourages another (the principal) to commit the crime. Consider: buying the weapon or getting the getaway car and giving it to the other criminal to actually carry out the act.
In order to be charged as an accomplice, the person must have the intent that the crime be committed. This is true even if a different crime ends up being committed as a result. The accomplice can then be held responsible not just for the crime that is committed, but other foreseeable crimes that are also ultimately committed. A clear example of this is when someone is asked to “stand guard” and things get out of hand. The person may not have even known exactly what they were “standing guard” for, but may nonetheless be held responsible for the crimes that occurred on their watch.
An accomplice cannot be charged for the primary offense and for being an accomplice; this is in contrast to conspiracy, where a defendant can be charged with committing the crime and conspiring with another to commit the crime. This is not to say that being an accomplice is not a serious matter; in Florida, the punishments for an accomplice may generally match the punishments of the person or persons that actually committed the crime.
Orlando, Florida Criminal Defense Attorneys
Accomplice criminal charges are often the result of the “I was in the wrong place at the wrong time” situation. Our experienced criminal defense attorneys at Moses & Rooth understand that you do not always know what you are getting yourself into when you go out with friends and that people do genuinely make mistakes. If you or anyone you know has been charged as an accomplice or the principal (the person who actually carried out the crime) in Florida, our law office can help protect your legal rights.
Do not let yourself feel as if you have to speak to law enforcement alone after your arrest; you have the right to an attorney. Contact us at our Orlando office before you say anything that may be damaging to your case and let us work with you to determine the best course of action for your unique circumstances.