The Intent Required for Complicity

Even if you did not commit a crime, you might be charged with complicity. If you have been charged with Complicity to a crime (aiding and abetting), it does not mean that you are guilty. Often individuals are charged with complicity because they are associated with or were near an individual who committed or attempted to commit a crime (e.g. friend, roommate, relative, spouse, wrong place/wrong time). But just because you have some association with the events, does not necessarily make you guilty.

The most effective legal defense to a charge of complicity is lack of intent. What does that mean? Most crimes require that in order for a person to be found guilty he/she must have a mental desire to commit the crime or cause a particular result. (Some crimes such as OVI, some sex offenses, speeding, do not require a mental intent -simply doing the act is sufficient). In the case of a person charged with complicity, the law requires that in order to be found guilty one must have the intent to commit the crime itself, not simply to assist another person.

Example: A friend asks you to give him a ride to Walmart, and you agree. After arriving at Walmart you both go in and look around. He leaves you, goes to another part of the store and then comes back and tells you that they did not have what he wanted. You both start to leave the store and the security alarm goes off. Your friend had decided had hide merchandise in his pocket. He gets charged with theft, and you get charged with complicity to theft since you brought him and because they claim you were the lookout. In this case, you clearly assisted your friend as you are the one who drove him. However, because you yourself never intended nor wanted to steal or wanted him to steal anything, you are not guilty of complicity.

Although a simple example, it does highlight the basic issue. If you find yourself in this situation, it is imperative that you obtain solid legal representation in order to successfully defend yourself.