Most extremely violent crimes, like aggravated assault, are crimes of passion. Frank gets angry at Nick, and Frank hits Nick with a baseball bat. Frank’s anger may be righteous, but he is probably guilty of assault just the same.
Not all violent crimes go down in this way. Sometimes, Frank harbors ill feelings against Nick, for one reason or another. In that situation, Frank may ask his friend Willie to back him up when he attacks Nick. Even if Willie did not directly participate in the attack, he may be criminally liable for the assault on Nick. In fact, Willie may fac ethe same punishment as Frank.
Accomplice liability cases like these are difficult to defend. Frank may have a number of defenses, such as self-defense. But aside from the limited defense of withdrawal, which is outlined below, St. Paul felony attorneys do not have many cards to play on Willie’s behalf.
Generally, if you do anything which furthers a criminal act in any way, and you have some idea that the ultimate aim is illegal, you are probably an accomplice.
That act could be something legal. Some classic examples are people who buy ski masks for a group of armed robbers or who serve as lookouts during holdups.
There is an additional element as well. The accomplice must intentionally further the criminal activity. Accomplices who act under duress may not be legally responsible. The 1995 Oklahoma City bombing is a good example of acting under duress.
Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols did most of the planning and preparation. Later, when it came time for execution, Nichols got cold feet. McVeigh forced Nichols to assist with final preparations. Although he acted under duress at the eleventh hour, Nichols was still McVeigh’s accomplice. His moment of regret did not make up for his prior criminal acts.
Additionally, failure to prevent a crime is usually not an offense. However, in some cases, the law imposes such a duty. St. Paul felony attorneys who learn that their clients plan to commit future criminal acts have a duty to stop these acts. This duty does not apply to prior criminal acts. That’s why any confession is usually confidential.
This defense varies, based on the commitment the accomplice had toward the criminal act. If the accomplice provided moral support or encouragement, a repudiation of this support or encouragement may be enough. Note that repudiation is an affirmative act. Simply withdrawing such support is not sufficient.
Repudiation would not cut it for the aforementioned ski mask purchasers or street lookouts. Once they commit acts, accomplices must withdraw from the operation and inform authorities. They must do both these things before the other actors commit the crime.
Minnesota’s gang crime enhancement may be the most commonly-used accomplice liability law in the Gopher State. The enhancement applies if a person “commits a crime for the benefit of, at the direction of, in association with, or motivated by involvement with a criminal gang, with the intent to promote, further, or assist in criminal conduct by gang members.”
That’s a broad and complex definition, so let’s break it down a little. Assume Juan, who is a low-level leader in a gang, instructs Paul to steal a few dollars from his neighbor. Even if Paul does not know what the money is for, Paul could be implicated in a much larger gang crime.
Additionally, the definition of a “gang” is rather broad too. Such a group is “any ongoing organization, association, or group of three or more persons, whether formal or informal.” Two kids who steal bubblegum from two different convenience stores might technically be a criminal gang.
The gang crime enhancement is significant. Section 609.229 adds up to ten years to a prison sentence and also contains a mandatory minimum incarceration period.
Accomplices, whether they are part of a gang or not, may face stiff punishment. For a free consultation with an experienced St. Paul felony attorney, contact Capitol City Law Group, LLC. Go online now, call us at (651) 998-7634, or stop by 287 6th St E, Suite 20, St Paul, MN 55101.