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State v. V.T.

    Brief Fact Summary. V.T. argued that the evidence was not sufficient to reach the conclusion that he was an accomplice in the theft of a camcorder from his relative’s apartment.


    Synopsis of Rule of Law. Remaining passive while a crime is being committed, and being friends with the wrongdoer, is not sufficient evidence of being an accomplice and does not incur liability.


    Facts. V.T. (D) and his friends Moose and Joey stayed overnight at V.T.’s relative apartment for the night. The next day it was found that the relative’s guns had been stolen, and later that the camcorder had been stolen. The camcorder was retrieved from a pawn shop. A videotape in it showed that Moose was discussing the pawning of the camcorder by phone with a friend, in the presence of V.T., who neither spoke nor made any gesture during the conversation. He was tried in juvenile court as an accomplice to the theft of the camcorder, though the court found that firearm theft charges could not be supported for lack of evidence. He appealed on the ground of inadequate evidence of his being an accomplice. The intermediate state court of appeals reviewed the case.


    Issue. Is remaining passive while a crime is being committed, and being friends with the wrongdoer, sufficient evidence of being an accomplice with incurred liability?


    Held. (Orme, J.) No. Merely being present without active participation at the scene of a crime and being friends with the criminal does not mean accomplice liability has been established. The fact of the defendant taking some affirmative action to provoke or stimulate the committing of the crime, or to encourage its commission, or to render any other help towards the crime, is to be proved to support a theory of accomplice liability. Just knowing about a crime or being present at the time is not sufficient to make one an accomplice. Since the evidence here does not support the reasoning of the juvenile court that V.T. was an accomplice, he not having suggested, encouraged, incited or ordered or even knowingly aided the crime, the verdict is reversed.


    Dissent. N/A


    Concurrence. N/A


    Discussion. The mere presence of a person may make one an accomplice if one’s role is that which encourages the commission of a crime or aids it in some way, as in the case of a lookout. In such cases, the defendant is clearly aiding and abetting the crime.



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