Accomplice Charge in Michigan

Someone accused of assisting in a crime, but not acting as the principal offender, is an “accomplice” or “aider and abettor.”

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What You Need to Know About Accomplice Charges in Michigan

Every person who procures, counsels, aids, or abets the commission of a felony or misdemeanor, even if they do not directly commit the offense, will be prosecuted in Michigan as if they directly committed the crime. Someone accused of being indirectly guilty of this charge is called an “accomplice” or an “aider and abettor.” Anyone who intentionally assists, participates, plans, or encourages someone else to commit a crime is as guilty as the person who directly commits it and can be convicted of that crime as an aider and abettor. An accomplice charge in Michigan can carry severe penalties and the more you know about the charge the better. Here is what you need to know.

Note: Michigan law uses the terms “accessory,” “aider and abettor,” and “accomplice” interchangeably.

What must the prosecutor prove in trial to convict someone of accomplice charges?

All crimes in Michigan, including accomplice charges, are made up of parts called “elements.” The prosecution must prove each element beyond a reasonable doubt to convict someone of accomplice charges. The elements of accomplice, accessory, and aider and abettor charges are as follows:

  • First, the prosecutor must prove someone committed the alleged crime.
  • Second, before or during the crime, the accused did something to assist that person in committing the crime.
  • Third, the accused must have intended the commission of the crime or must have known the other person intended its commission at the time they assisted.

What is the penalty for someone convicted of being an aider and abettor?

Someone convicted as an aider, abettor, or accessory faces the same maximum and minimum penalties as the person who primarily committed the felony or misdemeanor offense. Michigan law makes no distinction between an accessory and a primary offender. For example, if someone aids or abets someone who commits a crime punishable by up to 20 years in prison, they also face up to 20 years for an accomplice charge in Michigan.

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Must someone accused of an accomplice crime have criminal intent?

Someone charged with an accomplice, aider, or abettor charge in Michigan must specifically intend for the crime to occur or know someone else intends to commit the offense. In other words, the defendant is criminally liable as an aider and abettor if they specifically intended for the commission of the offense, have knowledge of it, or intend for someone to commit a crime that is the natural and probable consequence of the offense they intend to aid or abet.

Here are some examples where the aider and abettor or accomplice, Person A, is just as guilty as the person who actually commits the crime, Person B:

  • Person A acts as a lookout for Person B when Person B physically commits a robbery.
  • Person A advises someone who expresses an intent to break into a home to use the backdoor instead of going in through the front entrance.
  • Person A acts as a security guard for a clinic where Person B, a doctor they know, writes illegal drug prescriptions (healthcare fraud).
  • Person A provides a firearm to Person B, someone expressing an intent to shoot someone having an affair with their spouse.

Defenses to Accessory Charges and Aider and Abettor Allegations

Defenses to accessory and accomplice criminal charges in Michigan can vary depending on the specific circumstances of the case and the skill and experience of a criminal defense attorney. Some defenses the Defense Team with LEWIS & DICKSTEIN, P.L.L.C. uses involving accessory criminal charges include:

  • Lack of knowledge: A person may argue that they were unaware of the criminal activity or had no knowledge that they were assisting in a crime. Lack of knowledge can be a strong defense in court if the defendant did not have the requisite knowledge or intent to be considered an accessory.
  • Lack of intent: Similar to lack of knowledge, a defense may involve arguing that the defendant did not have the intent to assist in the criminal activity. Intent is a crucial element of accessory charges, so if the prosecutor cannot prove the defendant intended to aid or abet the crime, they are not guilty.
  • Duress or coercion: If the defendant was forced or threatened into assisting in a crime, other than murder, they may be able to argue that they acted under duress or coercion. This defense typically requires evidence that the defendant reasonably believed they were in imminent danger if they did not comply with the demands of another.
  • Withdrawal or abandonment: In some cases, a person may have initially agreed to assist in a criminal activity but later withdrew their involvement or actively tried to prevent the crime from occurring. Demonstrating that the defendant took steps to disassociate themselves from the illegal activity can be a legal or mitigating defense.
  • Lack of participation: If the defense can show the accused did not actively participate in the criminal activity and merely knew of it, this may be a defense. Being a mere bystander or having minimal involvement may not meet the legal threshold for being considered an accessory. Merely approving of a crime, being present for it, or witnessing it does not make someone an accomplice.
  • Statute of limitations: Depending on the jurisdiction and the specific charges, the statute of limitations may have expired, rendering the prosecution of accessory charges invalid. The statute of limitations for an accessory crime is the same as the limitation for the underlying crime, generally six (6) years in Michigan.
  • Mistaken identity: In some cases, it may be possible to argue that law enforcement or witnesses mistakenly identified the defendant as an accessory, and they were not indirectly or directly involved in the criminal activity. Often, this is a powerful defense against a charge reliant on a cooperating witness or government snitch, both of whom are notoriously unreliable and impeachable.

It’s important to note that the availability and success of these defenses can vary widely depending on the case’s specific facts. If you are facing accessory or accomplice criminal charges in Michigan, it’s essential to consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney, such as the lawyers with LEWIS & DICKSTEIN, P.L.L.C., who can assess your case and provide guidance on the most appropriate defense strategy.

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Defense Attorneys for Accomplice Charges

The defense attorneys with LEWIS & DICKSTEIN, P.L.L.C. have represented thousands of clients facing felony and misdemeanor charges in Michigan, including accomplice, accessory, and aider and abettor charges. Our team has an unparalleled track record for consistently achieving extraordinary results. If you work with our defense attorneys, you can expect:

  • Legal expertise
  • Experience in criminal defense
  • Strong research skills
  • Effective communication
  • Strategic thinking
  • Analytical skills
  • Client advocacy
  • Negotiation skills
  • Courtroom presence
  • Knowledge of criminal law and procedure

Call us for a free consultation. We will take the time to talk with you, answer your questions, and work with you to develop a winning strategy!

Call us today at (248) 263-6800 for a free consultation or complete an online Request for Assistance Form. We will contact you promptly and find a way to help you.

We will find a way to help you and, most importantly,
we are not afraid to win!

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