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Can you be charged for someone else’s crime?

On Behalf of | Jun 23, 2023 | Criminal Defense

Most people know that criminals should face the legal consequences of their actions. In Illinois, however, a person can be arrested or charged for a crime they did not do. According to the state’s accountability laws, anyone who helps another person execute an unlawful act or knows about the suspect’s plans may also be accountable.

Illinois’ law of accountability

In the Prairie State, anyone who is an accessory or passive participant in the commission of a crime is just as guilty of it. According to the Illinois Criminal Code, anyone who “solicits, aids, abets, agrees, or attempts to aid” the criminal is legally accountable.

You may face criminal charges if you help a suspect commit a crime, whether by encouraging them or making it easier for them to do so. One example is someone who acts as a bank robber’s lookout or getaway driver. Even if they did not walk into the bank and hold the tellers at gunpoint, they still assisted in the crime.

Before bringing charges against you, a court in Illinois must prove the following:

  1. You shared criminal intent with the perpetrator.
  2. There was a common criminal design or an agreement to perform an unlawful act.

Just being present at the crime scene may not be enough to hold you responsible. To determine whether or not you are accountable for a crime, the court will look at whether you:

  • Were an accessory to the crime
  • Served as a lookout
  • Fled the scene after the crime
  • Continue to maintain contact with the main perpetrator
  • Did not report the crime
  • Took payment for the crime

The accountability laws help police officers apprehend criminal accomplices first and then track down major players afterward. But there is also a chance that it could lead to the arrest of an innocent individual. If someone close to you is engaging in or intends to commit a crime, it could be bad news for you.