When Can You be Charged for Someone Else’s Crime?

Understanding Accomplice Liability in Arizona.

Did you know that, in the State of Arizona, you can go to prison for helping someone else commit a crime? Unfortunately, it’s true! Every year in Arizona, many people find themselves caught up in this situation, known as accomplice liability. Many people are surprised to learn that they can be held accountable for the actions of another simply because they did one small thing to help the person out. This post will hopefully help clear up some common questions we get about what accomplice liability is and when you can be held responsible for the crime another person commits.

First, under Arizona law, an accomplice is someone who is held criminally liable for a crime committed by someone know as a principal. A principal is the main person who commits the crime. Specifically, the law says an accomplice is:

a person … who with the intent to promote or facilitate the commission of an offense:

  1. Solicits or commands another person to commit the offense; or
  2. Aids, counsels, agrees to aid or attempts to aid another person in planning or committing an offense.
  3. Provides means or opportunity to another person to commit the offense.

As you might have noticed, the wording in this statute is a bit broad and does not explicitly define when an individual can be held liable for the actions of another. A separate Arizona law lays this out, and says:

A. A person is criminally accountable for the conduct of another if:

  1. The person is made accountable for such conduct by the statute defining the offense; or
  2. Acting with the culpable mental state sufficient for the commission of the offense, such person causes another person, whether or not such other person is capable of forming the culpable mental state, to engage in such conduct; or
  3. The person is an accomplice of such other person in the commission of an offense including any offense that is a natural and probable or reasonably foreseeable consequence of the offense for which the person was an accomplice.

B. If causing a particular result is an element of an offense, a person who acts with the kind of culpability with respect to the result that is sufficient for the commission of the offense is guilty of that offense if:

  1. The person solicits or commands another person to engage in the conduct causing such result; or
  2. The person aids, counsels, agrees to aid or attempts to aid another person in planning or engaging in the conduct causing such result.

The key takeaway from all this is that if you do anything to intentionally help a principal commit a crime, whether before or after the crime, you can usually be charged with the crime and punished for it in the same way the principal is. At Arizona Lawyers, we are experienced in representing people charged as accomplices. We look for evidence demonstrating that you did not intentionally act to aid or abet, or that your purpose in assisting the principal was not to further the crime. We serve clients in the Phoenix, Scottsdale, Mesa, Yuma, Flagstaff, and Glenndale areas, and are ready to help you. Contact us today.