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Minneapolis Criminal Defense Lawyers Know When You’re Not Liable for Another’s Crimes

On Behalf of | Aug 20, 2015 | Firm News |

Minneapolis criminal defense lawyers are adept at separating a client’s responsibility from that of the actual perpetrator of a crime. Minnesota’s statute 609.05, Liability for Crimes of Another, has 5 subdivisions, all of which give general definitions which have been honed by case law. Let’s take a closer look at the first three.:

1. AIDING AND ABETTING–This phrase, uttered constantly on TV crime shows, denotes serious consequences for those truly guilty. It means you are “personally liable” for a crime, even if it was actually committed by someone else, because you “intentionally aided, advised, hired, counseled, conspired with, or procured (engaged) another” to carry through with a certain crime.  True-crime dramas often present examples of men who hire other men to murder their wives so that the “procurers” can collect life insurance money. And the procurers are, in the eyes of the law, just as guilty as the men who pulled the triggers or strangled the wives!

However, the key word here is “intentionally.” Many people have, unwittingly, aided a real criminal by loaning gasoline later used to set a fire (arson), or by loaning a rifle for target practice–when your friend actually wields that gun during a robbery. Proving that you’ve unintentionally supplied resources for criminal activities is paramount to avoiding an “aiding and abetting” charge.

2. EXPANSIVE LIABILITY–If you are the person who has been accused of “aiding and abetting” as described directly above, and if–in the course of committing the crime you intended–another crime is completed, you are also liable for the second action. Example: You’ve been charged with driving the getaway car after a bank robbery, and while the real perpetrator was yelling at you to “step on it…step on it!”–and holding a gun to your head–you hit and seriously injured a pedestrian, then drove  away. You could be legally responsible for the robbery and for the hit-skip, if you cannot provide evidence that you had no idea you were being asked to participate in a robbery when you drove an acquaintance to the bank.

3. ABANDONMENT OF CRIMINAL PURPOSE–Let’s say you were involved, in the planning stages, with another person who wanted to enter a buddy’s home without permission and “rough him up.” As you thought about the possible legal consequences, you had a “change of heart,” and notified police about your co-conspirator’s assault plans.  By that time, however, your angry friend had not only assaulted–but killed–his buddy. But don’t despair.  Your good faith efforts to prevent this tragedy may prevent you from assuming any liability.

Contact us if you been charged with “aiding and abetting” in Minnesota. We will discover all of the legal defenses that apply to your particular situation.