One of the biggest misconceptions that people have about the criminal law is that they can only be convicted of the crime if they themselves took the actions which constituted the crime. Thus, a person might think that if he merely took some seemingly legal action of telling a friend that a neighbors had valuables stored in their garage and this caused the friend to burglarize the garage, that that means the first person is not guilty of burglary. Under those facts, the person who told the friend might (or might not) nevertheless be guilty of burglary and could go to prison for years. What makes matters worse is that, when people are questioned by police and do not assert their constitutional rights to a lawyer, they think they can talk their way out of it by pinning the crime on another and yet they give the police exactly what they need to convict them as an accomplice. Under California law, an accomplice is generally just as liable for a crime as the person who actually committed the crime.
What is an Accomplice Under California Law?
There are various terms used to describe the guilt of a person who did not necessarily take the steps to commit the actual crime but who will nevertheless be guilty for those crimes. The most common term for this is an “accomplice.” Under California state law, a person will be guilty as an accomplice to a crime if he or she does any of the following:
- Aids and abets in the commission of a crime
- Advises and encourages the commission of a crime
- Counsels, advises, or encourages a child under the age of 14 or a mentally handicapped person in the commission of a crime
- Uses fraud, contrivance, or force to cause the drunkenness of another for the purpose of that person committing a crime
- Uses threats, commands, coercion, or menaces to compel another to commit a crime
Thus, using the above definitions, for any crime that is committed by a defendant, there may be several other potential defendants who can also be convicted of the same crime and face the same criminal penalties. In addition, under California conspiracy law, when a person makes an agreement with another to commit a crime, and the other person completes the crime, the first person can be guilty of both conspiracy and the actual target crime committed.
Why Speaking to the Police Without an Attorney Is Extremely Risky
Because many people mistakenly believe that they are not guilty of a crime simply because they did not complete the actual crime itself (e.g. they did not steal property or assault a person), they often end up giving the police exactly what prosecutors need to secure a conviction by trying to explain that someone else did it. Police are far more knowledgeable about what takes to win a conviction than the average suspect and they will often use what seem like friendly tactics to get suspects to hand over deeply incriminating information.
It is your right to ask for an attorney whenever you are speaking with the police – regardless of whether they have read you your Miranda rights or you have been arrested or charged – and you should clearly make this request and refuse to answer any questions. This request cannot be used against you in court. An experienced criminal defense attorney can make sure your rights are protected and that you don’t end up helping to make the prosecutor’s criminal case against you.
Work With Criminal Defense Attorneys Dedicated to Your Freedom
The experienced criminal defense attorneys at The Law Offices of Omar Gastelum and Associates, PLC, are here to represent your rights and to present your best defenses in order to work towards a dropped investigation, reduced charges, a favorable plea agreement or a not guilty verdict. When you hire us as your defense attorney, we have a duty to keep information confidential and to zealously represent your interests to defend your freedom. Contact our office today to schedule a consultation to discuss any potential investigations or charges.