One who knowingly, voluntarily, and with common intent unites with the principal offender in the commission of a crime. One who is in some way concerned or associated in commission of crime; partaker of guilt; one who aids or assists, or is an ACCESSORY. One who is guilty of complicity in crime charged, either by being present and aiding or abetting in it, or having advised and encouraged it, though absent from place when it was committed, though mere presence, ACQUIESCENCE, or silence, in the absence of a duty to act, is not enough, no matter how reprehensible it may be, to constitute one an accomplice. One is liable as an accomplice to the crime of another if he or she gave assistance or encouragement or failed to perform a legal duty to prevent it with the intent thereby to promote or facilitate commission of the crime.
An accomplice may assist or encourage the principal offender with the intent to have the crime committed, the same as the chief actor. An accomplice may or may not be present when the crime is actually committed. However, without sharing the criminal intent, one who is merely present when a crime occurs and stands by silently is not an accomplice, no matter how reprehensible his or her inaction.
Some crimes are so defined that certain persons cannot be charged as accomplices even when their conduct significantly aids the chief offender. For example, a businessperson who yields to the EXTORTION demands of a RACKETEER or a parent who pays ransom to a kidnapper may be unwise, but neither is a principal in the commission of the crimes. Even a victim may unwittingly create a perfect opportunity for the commission of a crime but cannot be considered an accomplice because he or she lacks a criminal intent.
An accomplice may supply money, guns, or supplies. In one case, an accomplice provided his own blood to be poured on selective service files. The driver of the getaway car, a lookout, or a person who entices the victim or distracts possible witnesses is an accomplice.
An accomplice can be convicted even if the person that he or she aids or encourages is not. He or she is usually subject to the same degree of punishment as the principal offender. In the 1982 decision of Enmund v. Florida, 458 U.S. 782, 102 S. Ct. 3368, 73 L. Ed. 2d 1140, the SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES ruled that the death penalty could not be constitutionally imposed upon an accomplice to a felony-murder, a crime leading to murder, if he or she had no intention to, or did not, kill the victim. Earl Enmund drove the getaway car from a ROBBERY that resulted in the murder of its victims, an elderly married couple. Although Enmund remained in the car during the robbery and consequent killings and the trial record did not establish that he intended to facilitate or participate in a murder, the trial court sentenced him to death, along with the persons who actually killed the victims, upon his conviction for robbery in the first degree. In overturning the decision, the Supreme Court reasoned that to condemn such a defendant to death violated the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments to the Constitution, which prohibited CRUEL AND UNUSUAL PUNISHMENT in state prosecutions. The death penalty was an excessive punishment in light of the "criminal culpability" of this accomplice.