If you are involved in a criminal act in Southern California, even if you did not participate directly in the criminal act itself, you may be charged as an accomplice to the crime. Someone who is charged as an accomplice is charged with a lesser sentence than the actual perpetrator, but must go through the criminal justice process just like the person who committed the crime.
They will appear in Court before the Judge at an arraignment, be offered a plea bargain and may choose to plead guilty, not guilty or no contest. If convicted of the charge, they will be given a sentence and must comply with court mandated requirements. The possible consequences may include a fine, probation and possibly even jail time depending on the extent of the theft and the facts of the case.
An accessory to a crime is a person who helps another to commit a crime, either beforehand or during the duration. If the person assists the perpetrator after the fact, then they are considered an accessory after the fact, not an accomplice. An accomplice is a person who helps either before the crime is committed or after. For example, if a person helps another obtain blueprints for a bank that they are planning to rob, that person will be considered an accessory to robbery. In contrast, if a person kills someone then asks another to help hide the body, the person will be an accessory after the fact, because they did not help in committing the criminal act, they helped hide it. In the second example, the assisting was after the crime had been completed, the person did not help in committing the murder.
If a person hires someone to commit a crime, then they will be as liable as the person who actually committed the crime. In this situation, they are not assisting in a crime, they are the sole reason the crime is being committed, at their request. If a person hires another to “rough up” someone who owes them money, then they will be just as liable for assault and/or battery as the person who did the actual criminal act.
There must also be actual involvement before a person can be charged as an accessory. They have to have done an act that contributed to the eventual crime. For example, if a person distracted a store owner so that their friend can steal some items, then that person will be charged as an accomplice to theft. By distracting the store owner, they made it easier for their friend to commit the crime of theft.
However, in situations where the person did not know they were helping their friend commit the act, the person cannot be charged as an accomplice. The person must know or suspect that a crime is being committed. They cannot feign ignorance and not know that they were involved in helping aid the criminal.
An accomplice to a crime is a significant charge and will remain on your record if you are convicted. The standards for what acts constitute aiding are subjective and will be determined by the Court. A knowledgeable Los Angeles Criminal Defense lawyer can assess the facts of your case and determine whether there is a strong charge against you or one that can be dismissed with the properly prepared defense.