What is a complicity charge and the length of its term it can carry

Recently on our legal forum a user asked, "What is a complicity charge, and if I am convicted of complicity what penalties can I expect?" If you have been charged with complicity the state is alleging you have aided, facilitated, or assisted another person in the commission of a crime. The specifics of this charge are outlined in each state's statutes but generally can include the following:

  • Recruiting someone else to commit a crime.
  • Abetting or aiding another person to commit a crime.
  • Causing an innocent person to help you commit a crime.
  • Conspiring with one or more persons to commit a crime.

Consider, you can be charged with a complicity charge without physically performing the crime. For instance, if you conspire with another person to commit a crime or if you aid another person to commit a crime, you can be charged with complicity. For instance, if you give someone information about a combination to a safe in your place of business, act as a look out for another person as they commit a crime, or provide a getaway car after a robbery you can be charged with complicity.

Penalties for Complicity

Although state penalties may vary, if you are convicted of complicity, you can face the same charges as the person who committed the crime. For instance, if you loan a gun to someone who robs a store you could face the same punishment as the person who commits the robbery. In this case, you can be charged with a first degree felony and may spend up to 10 years in jail and be forced to pay high fines. You can also be charged and convicted for complicity even if the principal offender is not caught, charged, or prosecuted.

How do I defend against a complicity charge?

There are several defenses against a complicity charge. For instance, termination of the agreement to help with a crime is a valid defense against a complicity charge, but it will be up to you to prove that you did, in fact, voluntarily and completely refuse to help with the crime. The withdrawal of your agreement to assist with the crime must also have been prior to the commission of the crime.

Is Complicity the same as Aiding and Abetting?

Complicity is simply another term for aiding and abetting. In order to be charged with complicity the state must prove the crime was committed by someone else but you as the "accomplice" aided, counseled, commanded, or encouraged the commission of the illegal act or crime. The state must also prove you had the mental capacity to act "knowingly and purposefully" to help commit the crime.

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