Utah Criminal Defense - Salt Lake Criminal Attorney
Utah Code 76-2-202 - Accomplice Liability
Under Utah criminal
law, a defendant charged, convicted, and punished for a crime,
regardless of whether the defendant committed the crime directly or as
an accomplice. Under Utah's accomplice liability statute, criminal
responsibility and consequences
the same both for the direct commission of a crime or
for the conduct of another person.
Utah Code 76-2-202 states, "Every person, acting with the mental state
required for the commission
of an offense who directly commits the offense, who solicits, requests,
commands, encourages, or intentionally aids another person to engage in
conduct which constitutes an offense shall be criminally liable as a
party for such conduct."
statute provides criminal liability equally both for the person who
"directly commits the offense" as well as the person who, as an
accomplice, "solicits, requests, commands, encourages, or intentionally
aids another person" to engage in criminal conduct. Because the statute
makes no distinction in criminal liability between the accomplice and
the person directly committing the offense, the penalties imposed for
each can potentially be the same.
Consider the following hypothetical examples involving accomplice
liability for criminal conduct.
Example: Accomplice Liability for Bank Robbery
concocts a plan to rob a bank. Adam explains the plan to Brad, and asks
Brad to drive him to the bank and wait outside while Adam goes in to
commit the robbery. Brad decides that the robbery plan sounds good, and
agrees to help Adam. Brad gets his car, and drives with Adam to the
bank. Brad waits in the parking lot while Adam enters the bank. Adam
waives a gun in the air, demands money from the teller, grabs the cash,
and runs out to the parking lot. Adam jumps in the car, and shouts "I
got the money. Let's get out of here." Brad then drives away with Adam.
In this scenario, Adam has "directly committed" the robbery
and could be charged with a first-degree felony
aggravated robbery (for using a weapon in the commission of a robbery).
Brad did not enter the bank, did not demand money, and did not use a
weapon. But Brad shared the intent that the crime should be committed,
and by acting as the getaway driver Brad "intentionally aided" Adam to
engage in conduct that constituted the offense of aggravated robbery.
Thus, Brad is equally liable as an accomplice for the charge of aggravated
Example: Accomplice Liability for Drug Possession
The following hypothetical drug deal is somewhat more complex, and
involves multiple possibilities:
is struggling with drug addiction, and asks his friend Darren to go
purchase some marijuana for Chad. Darren does not know where to buy
marijuana in Utah, so Chad makes a phone call to his favorite drug
dealer and asks the dealer to meet Darren at the corner gas station.
Darren goes down to the corner gas station at the appointed time, meets
with the drug dealer, and buys a half-ounce of marijuana.
In this scenario, Darren is guilty for directly committing the misdemeanor
crime of possession
Chad never touched the marijuana or otherwise had possession of
marijuana. But Chad may also be convicted of marijuana possession as an
accomplice, because he "requested" that Darren commit the offense.
This scenario presents also presents the possibility of felony charges
against both Darren and Chad for possession
with the intent to distribute
a controlled substance. Because Darren was purchasing the drugs for
Chad, it appears that Darren intended to turn the marijuana over to
Chad once the transaction was complete. Thus, when Chad took possession
of the marijuana, he likely had the "intent to distribute" the drugs by
giving them to Chad. Even though Darren did not have possession of the
drugs and did not have the intent to distribute the marijuana after he
received it from Chad, he could again be charged as an accomplice for
asking Darren to commit the crime on his behalf.
scenario, there is an additional charge that could be filed against
Chad, based on Chad's phone call to his drug dealer. Utah law prohibits
not only the actual distribution
of a controlled substance
but also offering or arranging to distribute a controlled substance. By
making a phone call to his favorite dealer, Chad is likely guilty of
the felony crime of "arranging" the distribution of a controlled
Example: Accomplice Liability for Shoplifting (Retail Theft)
Consider the following alternate scenarios involving allegations of
friends, Erin and Flo, are in a store together. Erin conceives of a
plan to steal merchandise from the store, but says nothing to Flo
about the plan. While Flo is engaged in conversation with a clerk
(thus occupying the clerk's attention), Erin slips merchandise into her
pocket. Flo knows nothing about what Erin has done. Erin and Flo leave
the store together, without paying.
this scenario, Flo has no knowledge of Erin's intent or plan. If she
does have the necessary intent (i.e., does not intend to assist Erin in
committing a retail
), then even though her conduct ultimately did
assist Erin in being able to successfully commit the crime, Flo would
not be guilty as an accomplice.
This time, Erin tells
Flo about her
plan, and asks Flo to act as a lookout. Erin instructs Flo to whistle
twice if she sees any employees coming. Flo agrees to act as the
lookout, while Erin begins stuffing merchandise in her pockets. It
turns out that all of the employees are on the other side of the store,
and there is no one there to see what Erin is doing. Flo does not have
to give any warning signals.
In this scenario, Flo did not come up with the plan. Flo did
not solicit, request, or command Erin to commit the theft
Because the employees were not nearby, Flo's assistance (or aid) was
unnecessary. But a prosecutor may still argue that Flo's agreement to
help, together with her presence and willingness to assist as a lookout
if needed, acted to "encourage" Erin to commit the theft. Thus, even
this limited involvement could still result in Flo being found
criminally liable for Erin's conduct.
Choosing a Utah Criminal Defense Attorney in Salt Lake
criminal charge can have serious consequences, whether you are
convicted for directly committing the crime or as an accomplice. The
processes involved in defending a criminal charge can be complex.
Having the assistance of an experienced criminal
can be critical to achieving a successful
criminal defense attorney Stephen Howard has protected his clients'
rights in thousands of serious felony and misdemeanor cases. His track record
guilty verdicts and dismissals in some of the most serious charges on
the books in Utah.
Based in Salt Lake City, Mr. Howard provides legal services to clients
throughout Utah. If you are facing criminal charges, contact
us today to arrange
for a confidential consultation.
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