Charges for Being an Accomplice to a Crime in Arizona


We all understand that those who commit crimes are charged for that offense.  But what about the accomplices who assist others in committing crimes?

An accomplice to a crime can also be charged for their role in helping out, even if they didn’t commit the crime directly, so it’s important that they understand their rights and options if charged. This guide covers what exactly an accomplice is and what options you may have for defense if you’ve been charged with being an accomplice to a crime in Arizona.

Accomplice Definition

According to A.R.S.13.301, an accomplice in Arizona is defined as a person who intends to promote or facilitate an offense. In other words, an accomplice is anyone who assists another individual in a crime.

This individual can either solicit or command another person to commit a crime, aid another individual in planning a crime, and/or provide an opportunity for that individual to commit a crime.

The accomplice doesn’t directly carry out the crime itself. The person who commits the actual crime is known as the perpetrator. However, the accomplice does provide assistance in some form to make the crime happen. For example, an accomplice might purchase a weapon that is then used by the perpetrator in an armed robbery.

What Is a Conspiracy?

One common way to determine whether a person is an accomplice is to consider whether they were involved in a conspiracy to commit the crime. A conspiracy requires at least two people to agree to commit a crime and one of the actors to commit an overt act in furtherance of that crime.

If a person is found to have had a role in a conspiracy, they’re likely to be considered an accomplice to the subsequent crime. However, a conspiracy involves more than just talking about committing a crime—there must be a tangible plan or steps taken to further the act. To convict an accomplice, a lawyer must prove that they had an intent to support the crime.

Examples of conspiracy may include:

  • Agreeing to buy a weapon for the perpetrator that they will later use in the crime
  • Renting a vehicle to assist the perpetrator in evading the crime scene
  • Planning how or when to commit a crime
  • Providing information to the perpetrator to assist them in successfully committing the criminal act

Accomplice vs. Accessory

A person who did not commit a crime directly but had a role in assisting the perpetrator is considered either an accomplice or an accessory, which are two different classifications. 

An accomplice to a crime is someone who either assists, influences, or encourages a person to commit a crime. An accomplice is typically involved in a crime from the planning stages or in the act of committing the criminal act in some way.

An accessory is someone who doesn’t have direct involvement in committing the crime but provides support to a perpetrator evading justice after the fact. Although an accessory doesn’t have a role in committing the crime itself, they provide some kind of support to a suspected criminal afterward.

Some examples of actions an accomplice might take include:

  • Agreeing to assist a person in committing a crime
  • Providing support, information, or financial assistance to someone committing a crime
  • Asking or influencing a person to commit a criminal act
  • Obtaining a weapon
  • Driving the get-away car
  • Serving as a lookout to protect the perpetrator

Meanwhile, some actions an accessory to a crime might take include

  • Cleaning up a crime scene
  • Providing support or financial assistance to a perpetrator trying to evade justice
  • Housing a suspected criminal who’s on the run

Punishment for an Accomplice in Arizona

The punishment of an individual depends on the crime committed and in what form the accomplice has helped. The punishment is typically based on the severity of the crime and how much influence the accomplice had on the outcome.

For example, if an individual drives a burglar of a bank away from the scene of the crime, that driver will be charged with burglary and is an accomplice to that crime (which is punishable with a prison sentence between three and 12 years).  Though that person did not physically engage in the act of stealing money from the bank, the accomplice was still present at the scene and assisted with the crime.

According to ARS.13.303-03, an accomplice may be charged with criminal liability even if they weren’t the main perpetrator, depending on the type of crime. The statute states a person may be charged under the following circumstances:

  • The law specifically holds accomplices responsible depending on the type of crime
  • If they influence or instruct someone else to commit a crime
  • If they have a significant role in planning the crime

Punishment may also depend on precedent in past cases of a similar nature. A judge may consider the outcomes of other court cases as precedents when determining punishment for an accomplice and the perpetrator.

What About The Death Penalty?

However, it was decided by the United States Supreme Court in Enmund v. Florida in 1982 that an accomplice cannot be convicted of the death penalty if that individual did not take, attempt to take, or intend to take a life even if he or she is present at the murder.

That said, in Tison v. Arizona in 1987, the Supreme Court ruled that an accomplice can be sentenced to death for taking part in events leading to a murder even if they did not specifically intend to kill the victim or inflict the fatal wound themselves.

The court expanded upon Enmund v. Florida, clarifying that if an accomplice acts with major participation in the felony and a “reckless indifference to human life,” they may be subject to the death penalty.

These cases both applied the proportionality principle to determine whether the death penalty was an appropriate punishment for those involved in the crime. Cases that may involve the death penalty often use proportionality review, which uses the rulings of previous cases to make a judgment based on the severity of the accomplice’s involvement. 

A proportionality review protects against excessive punishments or making decisions based on arbitrary or subjective means. It also means that the exact punishment for a crime will often be up to the court’s discretion, rather than a predetermined consequence.

I Was Charged as an Accomplice in Arizona, Do I Need a Criminal Defense Lawyer?

Accomplices can be deemed just as guilty by a jury as the  primary perpetrator of a crime. Thus, it is equally important to have a criminal defense attorney for anyone accused of being an accomplice.  The criminal defense team at JacksonWhite can assist you in defending various crimes, whether you were a perpetrator or an accomplice.

Call the JacksonWhite Criminal Law team at (480) 418-4281 to discuss your case today.

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