What are some possible defenses for accomplice charges?

If someone you know has committed a crime and you are possibly wrapped up in it in some way, the police might charge you with being an accomplice or an accessory after the fact. To you, these charges may feel confusing and unfair.

So, what are some possible defenses to accomplice-type charges?

You felt threatened or in fear of your life

It could be that you felt you had no choice but to go along with the crime or its aftermath to protect your health, life or family. For instance, if your friend robs a bank and comes to your house afterward for shelter, waving a gun around and acting erratic, your immediate priority is probably to calm the situation down. That may mean going ahead and sheltering your friend until you can get the gun away or until cooler heads prevail.

You withdrew your intent

Say that you and a friend have been talking about breaking into a house. It has mostly been spoken in jest, but you begin to think that your friend may be serious. So, a couple of days before the planned date of the break-in, you tell your friend, “Hey, I kind of thought we were joking about the break-in. Count me out.” If your friend goes ahead and breaks in the house and steals things, you can reasonably claim that you had withdrawn your intent.

You were just present

Sometimes, the bystanders at a crime scene may be accused of helping the alleged offender. In such cases, a productive defense might include arguing that you just happened to be there and whatever alleged actions you took involved no intent of helping the alleged offender.

You may also be wondering if it is illegal to not report a crime you see happening or that you have been told might happen. In most cases, no, you do not have a legal obligation to tell the authorities.

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