Lending your car to a friend to use in order to get to work is a generous thing to do. If know that your friend’s line of work is robbing convenience stores, you might have the police knocking on your door to arrest you for robbery. As much as you protest your innocence, you are an accomplice under Arizona law, and you can be charged with the robbery even though you were at home.
Providing assistance to commit a crime in Phoenix
The criminal code in Arizona defines an accessory as anyone who provides, or agrees to provide, assistance or advice in the planning or commission of a criminal offense. The law includes providing the means and opportunity for commission of a crime by another person.
When you lent your car to your friend you provided the means for committing the crime. The fact that you knew, or should have known based upon what the friend did for a living, that the car might be used in the commission of a robbery could put you in prison along with your friend.
Solicitation: Becoming an accessory by helping a friend
If you solicit or order someone to commit a crime, you could be charged with committing the crime itself. It would not matter that you did not participate in carrying out the criminal conduct. Under the criminal liability laws, you could be charged, convicted and sentenced just as if you were there at the scene of the crime.
The media periodically reports on arrests being made in a plot to have someone killed. The stories usually revolve around a disgruntled husband or wife hiring someone to kill his or her spouse.
Fortunately for the intended victim, the “hitman” in the news reports frequently turns out to be an undercover police officer, so the targeted spouse lives to file for divorce. Even though the plot was not carried out, the individual who solicited the undercover police officer could still be charged as an accessory under Arizona’s criminal liability law.
Harsh effect from Arizona accessory law
Your contribution to the commission of a crime could have been very minor, but you could end up as the only person convicted and punished. State law does not allow someone accused of being an accomplice to escape criminal liability based upon any of the following possible scenarios:
• The person committing the crime was acquitted of the charges
• Police and prosecutors elected not to charge the other person with committing the crime
• The person you assisted was convicted of a different crime than the one for which you are charged
• The other person was granted immunity from prosecution
The granting of immunity to the individual who actually committed the criminal act is not that unusual. If prosecutors want to secure that person’s cooperation by ensuring that he or she will testify against you, they might offer the person immunity from prosecution. Such a decision is within the discretion granted to prosecutors.
State law encourages prosecutors to use testimony of any of the parties involved in a criminal enterprise against the other participants. It does this by waiving corroboration. For instance, your friend knows that you have a gun. The friend asks to borrow the gun to threaten someone who owes him money.
When police catch him, your friend identifies you as the person who provided the weapon. Under the statute, prosecutors do not have to offer additional evidence at trial to support or corroborate your friend’s testimony.
Penalties for being an accessory
Some states distinguished between offering assistance or aid to someone before a crime was committed and offering aid to someone following the commission of a crime. An accessory offering aid before the crime is someone who provides a gun, car, building plans or other assistance to a person who is planning to commit a crime, but who has not yet committed it.
An a accessory after the fact is a person who offers assistance following the commission of a crime. For example, hiding your friend from the police after he or she committed a crime would make you an accomplice after the fact.
The difference between assistance offered before a crime and assistance that follows completion of the crime act is in the severity of the charges filed against the accessory . Generally, charges and punishment might be less severe for an accomplice after the fact. In Arizona, all accessories could receive the same sentence.
The criminal law in Arizona makes no distinction between aid and assistance before or after the crime has been committed. Phoenix accessories will each be charged with the crime committed. Three people who plan and carry out a robbery will each be charged with robbery even though one of them went into a store and pointed a gun at a clerk while demanding money. The driver of the car used to get away and the person who got the gun used in the crime will all be charged with robbery
Avoiding criminal responsibility as an accessory
As a general rule, an accessory must do more than just change his or her mind about helping another person to commit a crime. If you want to avoid being charged as an accessory , you must:
• Completely withdraw from the criminal enterprise
• Refuse further participation in the activities leading to the criminal act
• Take affirmative action to prevent the crime from taking place, including notifying the police
Consulting a Phoenix criminal defense lawyer might help
The laws imposing criminal liability on an accomplice in Arizona could put you in prison for a long time. The fact that your role was a minor one is not a defense. It is also not a defense that the person you helped was a close friend or even a relative.
If you have been charged as an accessory , or if you believe you might be engaged in activities that could result in your being charged as an accessory , you should consult the attorneys at the Phoenix offices of the Tyler Allen Law Firm.
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