What Is The Difference Between Criminal Liability And Accomplice Liability?

- Lotze Mosley

At Lotze Mosley, LLP, our criminal defense attorneys in Washington D.C. and Maryland create unique strategies for each of our clients, so we can pursue the best outcome available for their legal circumstances.

That means establishing strong cases that reduce our clients’ criminal liability, which is required to prove that the defendant is guilty of a crime.

Other times that means launching a criminal defense strategy to lessen the liability for clients who are being charged as an accomplice, or someone criminally liable for acts committed by a different person.

What Does It Mean To Be Criminally Liable For A Crime?

When a person is criminally liable, it means they may be held legally responsible for breaking the law.

To find a person criminally liable, the prosecutor must prove:

  • The person committed the criminal act in question
  • The person did so with the required criminal mindset, also called intent

Simply put, the prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you not only committed the crime but that you intended to do it.

In some cases, strict liability is a factor, which means you can be held liable for a crime regardless of your intentions. For example, you can be ticketed for speeding, even if you did not know you were exceeding the speed limit.

What Does It Mean To Liable As An Accomplice?

When a person assists, aids, or encourages another in the commission of a crime, they are said to be an accomplice to the crime.

The person who directly commits the crime is considered the principal, while the person who helps is the accomplice.

When determining accomplice liability, the court will review the individual’s intent and their scope of liability.

The accomplice needs to provide active counsel, assistance, encouragement, or aid toward the commission of the crime.

If he or she does not take any committed actions toward assisting the principal, or the principal was unaware the other person was helping, it is unlikely the charges of accomplice with stand.

Common criminal acts committed by accomplices can include aid given before or after the crime is completed, including:

  • Providing money, weapons, or other objects for use in the commission of the crime
  • Acting as a lookout while a crime is being committed
  • Operating as a getaway driver after a crime has occurred
  • Disarming an alarm or unlocking a door to allow another to commit a crime inside the location
  • Encouraging the principal to complete the crime

Do I Need A Defense Lawyer For Accomplice Liability And Criminal Liability Charges?

If you have been charged with a crime, whether as a principal or accomplice, you will need an experienced criminal defense lawyer who will outline your rights and the best course of action for your unique legal circumstances.

Contact our Washington D.C. and Maryland criminal defense lawyers at Lotze Mosley, LLP today by calling (202) 393-0535 to discuss your case today.