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What should you know about accomplice liability?

If you've been charged with complicity, that means the police believe that you somehow aided a criminal act. No matter how small you think your part in the crime actually was, accomplice liability is no small issue -- you can end up doing just as much time behind bars as the person who actually committed the crime.

This is what you need to know:

1. You don't actually have to be present during the crime to be an accomplice.

This is one of those situations where what you say and do can come back to haunt you. If you instigated the crime in some way, that's enough to get you charged as an accomplice.

For example, if you tell someone that you know has done some robberies in the past that your elderly neighbor has a safe full of gold coins -- that might be all it takes to make you an accomplice. Telling someone you know is a thief about an easy mark could be considered encouraging the criminal activity.

2. You may also find yourself facing conspiracy charges.

You can also be charged with conspiracy in addition to being an accomplice. There's only a thin line separating the two charges -- an accomplice helps with the actual crime, but a conspirator helps plan it out. The crime doesn't even have to actually happen in order for everyone involved to be guilty of a conspiracy.

Say, however, you tell the police that you and your friend discussed robbing your elderly neighbor of her gold coins the night before your friend actually did it. Even though you might insist you were only talking and never thought he'd really do it -- that's enough for you to be guilty of conspiracy.

3. You could also be guilty of far worse.

As an accomplice, you're guilty of whatever your cohorts do -- even if you never thought that something that awful would happen.

For example, imagine that your neighbor caught your friend in the act so he shoved her to get away, and she fell, hit her head and died. He's now guilty of some type of murder and so are any accomplices who helped him.

If you have knowledge of a crime, protect your own interests and speak to a criminal defense attorney before you speak to the police -- you may be glad you did!

Source: FindLaw, "What is Complicity or Accomplice Liability?," accessed Aug. 09, 2017

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