Those individuals who play lesser roles in committing a crime–or who help criminals before or after they commit a crime–can be held just as responsible for the crime as the major players involved. The law typically refers to the main participant in a crime as the principal and to those who assist as accomplices. An accomplice is defined as anyone who intentionally helps another to commit a crime. Defense lawyers in Pensacola, Florida represent both those accused of acting as principals and those accused of acting as accomplices.
In the eyes of prosecuting lawyers in Pensacola and Florida, an accomplice’s pre-crime assistance means that he or she is every bit as guilty as the person who commits the actual deed. To prove a defendant guilty of acting as an accomplice, the government has to demonstrate that the accused intentionally aided in the commission of a crime. The defendant has to actually know and realize that the principal is going to commit a crime and the accomplice must intend to help the crime succeed.
The common law has developed specific terminology to distinguish between the different ways someone can serve as an accomplice. A “principal in the first degree” is the person who physically carries out a crime. A “principal in the second degree,” also known as an “aider and abettor,” is someone who is present at the crime scene and helps in a passive role, like serving as a “lookout” during a robbery. An “accessory before the fact” is someone who was not present at the crime scene. As lawyers in Pensacola, Florida can attest, despite the distinction in terminology, the law views all participants as equally liable and can punish them equally.
An accessory after the fact is a person who knowingly helps someone who has committed a felony avoid arrest or trial. Most states punish accessories after the fact much less harshly than accomplices or principals. Conspirators, on the other hand, are two or more people who agree to commit a crime. Unlike accomplices, conspirators each serve as principals in the commission of a crime. Prosecuting lawyers in Pensacola and Florida can actually convict conspirators for their illegal plans even if they do not actually succeed in carrying the crime out.
In Pensacola, Florida, lawyers representing defendants are rightly concerned that clients could be unfairly prosecuted for their own private thoughts. In order to provide some protection against this, most states do not consider conspirators guilty of committing the crime of conspiracy unless at least one of the conspirators actually commits an “overt act.” An overt act is an activity that serves to set the conspiracy into motion in some capacity.
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