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Criminal accomplice

A criminal accomplice is someone who participates in the commission of a crime without doing the crime themselves, such as the driver of a getaway vehicle.

William Tuffly Ellis | May 11, 2015

I'm a Suspect! What Do I Do?

Should I speak to the detective? Typically, when you become a suspect in a crime, a detective will contact you. Whether you are guilty or not, speaking to the detective before you've spoken to an experienced criminal defense lawyer is a bad idea. Many people think they can just talk their way out of the trouble. Others think that if they are innocent, the detectives will listen to their side of the story and everything will be ok. This is usually not the case. Detectives are suspicious by nature and by training. They are especially suspicious of defendants and suspects. Rarely will a detective simply believe your story. If I'm innocent, why is it a bad idea to speak to the detective? It is a bad idea for many reasons. You may think you are innocent, but the law related to the incident may be complicated, such that, in fact, you are not totally innocent. If you are suspected of being an accomplice in a crime, for example, you can be charged even if you did not directly participate in the commission of the offense. If you are suspected of sexual assault in a date rape case, your guilt or innocence may be unclear. Whether or not the alleged victim consented to the sexual encounter can be a complex fact issue. Or, you may not be aware that the person was under the age of consent. Even if you didn't know this at the time, you can still be charged. If you admit to sexual relations with that person, you have basically confessed to the crime. If you are a suspect in a violent crime, you may feel your actions were done in self-defense. However, whether or not your act was self-defense is another complex fact issue. In all of these situations and many more, you may well say something that you think is helping you, when in fact it is hurting you. As a suspect, am I legally obligated to speak to the detective or police? The short answer is no. You have a 5th Amendment right against self- incrimination. This means law enforcement cannot force you to give any information that may incriminate you. And without speaking to a lawyer first, as discussed above, you will often not know what information might incriminate you. You also have a right to refuse to speak with law enforcement unless you have a lawyer present. If you exercise this right, however, you will need to hire an attorney. The courts cannot appoint you a lawyer or public defender before you have been formally charged. Should I believe what the detective is telling me? The short answer, again, is no. Detectives can legally lie, trick, deceive, and manipulate you. In fact, they are trained to do so. What evidence does the detective need to charge me? The detective needs an arrest warrant based on probable cause that you committed an offense. This is a much lower standard than the "beyond a reasonable doubt" standard used by juries. Even if their case against you is very weak, even if it's based on the testimony of a single person, for example, they may very well have enough to arrest you. If some time goes by and I still have not been charged, am I in the clear? No. Detectives can, and often do, take their time to fully investigate a case before filing charges against a suspect. Even if they already have enough to file charges, they may wait to do so for any number of reasons. Maybe they are busy with other cases, or maybe they are trying to gather more evidence to make their case stronger. The only time limit they have to file charges is the statute of limitations for the crime, and most statute of limitations are at least a few years. If I am a suspect but have not been charged yet, why hire a lawyer? First, hiring an experienced criminal defense lawyer at this stage will maximize your odds of not being charged. At this stage, law enforcement has the discretion whether or not to file charges. It is their choice. Once you hire a lawyer, that lawyer can speak to the detectives on your behalf and direct them to cease attempts to contact you. The lawyer can investigate the matter, gather useful information, talk to witnesses, and use various means to convince the detectives not to file charges. Second, the lawyer can prevent you from making statements that might incriminate you, so that even if you are charged, the case against you will be weaker. Remember, hiring a lawyer at this stage will not guarantee any result, but it will maximize your odds.

Zachary Walker Jarvis | Nov 26, 2014

Restitution in the Washington Criminal Justice System

Restitution "shall be based on easily ascertainable damages for injury to or loss of property." Restitution is frequently encountered in felony criminal practice as a consequence of a plea that follows sentencing. Restitution is an amount of money awardable to an aggrieved party that has suffered some form of loss through the criminal conduct of the defendant. It is not a stand-in for civil remedies. Restitution shall be ordered whenever the offender is convicted of an offense that results in injury to any person or damage to or loss of property. Things such as counseling costs of a victim, or the value of a pawned ring are straightforward examples of items restitution could be claimed for. Restitution may be in an amount either known or yet to be determined at the time of a plea to a criminal charge. Restitution is a creature derived entirely from statute (RCW 9.94A.753). Courts will not engage in tortured reasoning or overly technical construction to allow a defendant to evade restitution. State v. Davison 116 Wn.2d 917, 922, 809 P.2d 1374 (1991). However, The restitution statute is designed to promote respect for the law by providing punishment that is just. State v. McCarthy, 178 Wn. App. 290, 313 P.3d 1247 (2013). Compensation is not the primary purpose of restitution, and the criminal process should not be used as means to enforce civil claims. State v.Martinez, 78 Wn. App. 870, 899 P.2d 1302, review denied 128 Wn.2d 1017, 911 P.2d 1342 (1995). The reality is that judges will almost invariably err on the side of awarding restitution. The restitution statute sweeps far more broadly than the accomplice liability statute, by requiring neither knowledge nor foreseeability of the injury, but merely a causal relationship. State v. Israel, 113 Wn. App. 243, 54 P.3d 1218 (2002), reconsideration denied, review denied 149 Wash.2d 1013, 69 P.3d 874, review denied 149 Wash.2d 1015, 69 P.3d 874, habeas corpus denied (2006). While restitution must be based on easily ascertainable damages, the amount of harm or loss need not be established with specific accuracy. State v. Lohr, 130 Wn. App. 904, 125 P.3d 977, reconsideration denied, review denied 158 Wn.2d 1013, 145 P.3d 1215 (2005). Obviously, a claimed restitution is more likely to be awarded if there is tangible evidence to support it. Who has the burden of proving a claim of restitution? The prosecutor must prove by a preponderance of the evidence that claimed restitution is "causally connected" to the criminal conduct at issue. Kinneman 155 Wn.2d 286. Evidence is sufficient to prove restitution if it affords a reasonable basis for estimating loss. State v. Dedonado, 99 Wn. App. 251, 991 P.2d 1216 (2000). While damages need not be proven with certainty to support award of restitution, evidence of damages must be sufficient to afford reasonable basis for estimating loss and must not subject trier of fact to mere speculation or conjecture. State v. Awawdeh, 72 Wn.App. 373, 864 P.2d 965, review denied 124 Wash.2d 1004, 877 P.2d 1288, certiorari denied 115 S.Ct. 441, 513 U.S. 970, 130 L.Ed.2d 352 (1994). What is determined at a restitution hearing? A criminal defendant has a right to a hearing on the issue of amount of restitution, if any, the Court will order. The defendant may either be present, or may choose to waive presence. Restitution, which can be worked out by agreement, is often a contested issue following a plea and sentencing. Where a defendant disputes facts relevant to the determination of restitution, the State must prove the appropriate amount by a preponderance of the evidence at an evidentiary hearing. State v. Hughes, 154 Wn.2d 118, 110 P.3d 192, reconsideration denied (2005). Where a defendant disputes material facts for purposes of restitution, the sentencing court must either not consider those facts or grant an evidentiary hearing where the state must prove the restitution amount by a preponderance of the evidence. State v. Dedonado, 99 Wn. App. 251, 991 P.2d 1216 (2000). The defendant is not required to notify the State that he or she is challenging written documentation for the victim's restitution claim so that the state can have the opportunity to summon a witness or to get additional documentation to address his or her concerns. Id. What are frequently encountered issues prior to a restitution hearing? -Is the claimed restitution sought causally connected to the conduct the defendant pled to? -How long does the State have to seek restitution? -Did the State miss a deadline? -What are the notice requirements for scheduling a restitution hearing? -Can investigative costs be sought as restitution? -Can restitution be ordered for uncharged crimes or acts? -How are restitution orders enforced? A causal connection is necessary for restitution to be ordered. Restitution is allowed only for losses that are causally connected to a crime, and may not be imposed for a general scheme, acts connected with the crime charged, or uncharged crimes unless the defendant enters into an express agreement to pay restitution in the case of uncharged crimes. State v. Kinneman, 155 Wn.2d 272, 119 P.3d 350 (2005). Restitution statute requires sentencing court to find that a victim's injuries were causally connected to a defendant's crime before ordering a defendant to pay restitution for the expenses which resulted; a causal connection is not established simply because a victim or insurer submits proof of expenditures. State v. Dennis, 101 Wn. App. 223, 6 P.3d 1173 (2000). Assault victim's medical reports, merely stating the name of the service provider, the service date, date paid, billed amount, and amount paid, were insufficient to link the charged amounts to any particular symptoms or treatments, as was required to support restitution order. State v. Hahn, 100 Wn. App. 391, 996 P.2d 1125 review granted 141 Wn.2d 1025, 11 P.3d 825 (2000). A causal connection between the crime and the victim's claimed damages, as element for restitution, is not established simply because a victim or insurer submits proof of expenditures for replacing property stolen or damaged by the person convicted, because such expenditures may be for items of substantially greater or lesser value than the actual loss. Dedonado, 99 Wn. App. 251. Restitution cannot be imposed based on a defendant's general scheme or acts connected with the crime charged, when those acts are not part of the charge. State v. McCarthy, 178 Wn. App. 290, 313 P.3d 1247 (2013). There was held to be an insufficient causal connection between a defendant's crimes, three second degree assaults and an attempted drive-by shooting, and the damages to a vehicle and garage door that defendant crashed into to support restitution order, where defendant inflicted the damages while he fled the scene of the assaults and attempted drive-by, crimes that he had committed in a different area of the neighborhood. State v. Oakley, 158 Wn. App. 544, 242 P.3d 886, review denied 171 Wn.2d 1021, 257 P.3d 663 (2010). A restitution order in a theft prosecution arising from defendant's embezzlement of funds from employer, a travel agency, properly included costs of overtime, bookkeeping, accounting, and private detective and attorney services incurred by employer to ascertain the extent of embezzlement; such costs were a reasonable consequence of the crime and thus met the causal connection requirement. State v. Wilson, 100 Wn.App. 44, 995 P.2d 1260 (2000). A restitution order imposed upon defendant convicted of possession of stolen property could include the value of coins which had been in display case which was found in defendant's possession, as it was reasonable to infer that defendant's possession of the stolen display cases resulted in loss of the coins. State v. Mead, 67 Wn. App. 486, 836 P.2d 257 (1992). Timing Under the restitution statute, which states that when restitution is ordered the court shall determine the amount due at the sentencing hearing or within 180 days, subject to certain exceptions, the 180-day time limit is mandatory, although the court may continue the restitution hearing beyond the 180-day limit for good cause if a party so requests before the time limit has expired. State v. Grantham,174 Wn.App. 399, 299 P.3d 21, review denied 178 Wn.2d 1006, 308 P.3d 642 (2013). Can law enforcement's investigative costs constitute restitution? The answer is yes, but there must still be a causal connection. See Tobin,161 Wn.2d 517, 525, which refers to both Kinneman and Wilson relating to investigative costs: We have allowed restitution to include investigative costs that are " 'reasonably and rationally related to the crime and consequential in the sense that but for the [crime], the victim would not have incurred them.' " Kinneman, 155 Wn.2d at 287, 119 P.3d 350 (alteration in original) (quoting State v. Wilson, 100 Wn. App. 44, 50, 995 P.2d 1260 (2000)). Thus, costs incurred by a bank to unload surveillance film, to purchase new film, and to reload bank surveillance cameras were properly included in restitution. Smith, 119 Wn.2d at 388, 831 P.2d 1082. The "funds spent by the bank were 'property' that was lost as a direct result of the crime." Id. at 389-90, 831 P.2d 1082. The costs of investigating embezzlement have also been deemed proper restitution. Kinneman, 155 Wn.2d at 287-88, 119 P.3d 350 (discussing Wilson, 100 Wn.App. at 50, 995 P.2d 1260); State v. Johnson, 69 Wn.App. 189, 193, 847 P.2d 960 (1993). We have even allowed restitution to include the amount that a city paid an assault victim during the time that he was unable to work as a result of the assault, even though the city was not the direct victim of the crime and even though the city was not required to pay the victim during his time away from work. Davison, 116 Wn.2d at 921-22, 809 P.2d 1374. It is important to argue whether the investigation costs were reasonable and rationally related to the crime. For example, use of military-grade equipment by law enforcement is unlikely to be reasonable and rationally related to an investigation of a drug offense. Conversely, forensic computer analysis is likely to be reasonably and rationally related to an embezzlement investigation (at least on the surface). Can restitution be ordered on uncharged offenses? The simple answer is no, unless there is another agreement or quid pro quo in place as part of the resolution of the case. A criminal defendant may not be required to pay restitution beyond the crime charged or for other uncharged offenses absent a guilty plea with an express agreement as part of that process to pay restitution for crimes for which the defendant was not convicted. State v. Dauenhauer, 103 Wn. App. 373, 12 P.3d 661, review denied 143 Wn.2d 1011, 21 P.3d 291 (2000). The exception to general rule prohibiting restitution for uncharged crime is where defendant pleads guilty to fewer or lesser crimes and agrees to pay restitution for uncharged crimes that prosecutor agrees not to pursue. State v. Fleming, 75 Wn. App. 270, 877 P.2d 243, petition dismissed 129 Wn.2d 529, 919 P.2d 66 (1994). Restitution may be ordered only for losses incurred as result of precise offense charged. Restitution cannot be imposed based on defendant's general scheme or acts connected with crime charged when those acts are not part of the charge. State v. Miszak, 69 Wn. App. 426, 848 P.2d 1329 (1993).

Douglas F Herring | Apr 17, 2014

What is Official Misconduct in New Jersey?

(1) You were a public servant; The first element the prosecution would need to prove is that you were a "public servant." New Jersey law, N.J.S.A. 2C:27 1, defines this so broadly it covers practically every government employee, every legislators, every judges, every consultant, every advisor, and anyone else performing a governmental function. In one case, this applied to an unpaid volunteer firefighter because the firefighter performed a governmental function. Even if a person is not a public servant themselves, they can be convicted under this section if the Prosecution proves the person was an accomplice of a public servant. (2) You committed an act relating to your office knowing that it was unauthorized; The next element is that you did some improper action or you failed to do some required action. This action must have been part of your official duties. While not every improper action is official misconduct, the prosecution must prove you knew the action was unauthorized and unlawful. In fact, the action you are charged with does not even have to be a crime. You could be convicted of official misconduct, even if a jury finds you not guilty of all the other charges. For example, an unpaid firefighter was charged with causing false fire alarms. This is a third-degree crime; however, he was charged with official misconduct for doing the improper action relating to his government duties as a firefighter. The official misconduct was a second-degree crime and he was sentenced to state prison. (3) Your purpose in so acting was to benefit yourself or to injure someone else. The final element of official misconduct is the requirement that your purpose in doing or not doing the required action was to benefit yourself or to injure someone else. In most cases, the benefit of taking money or property would be easy to understand. In one case, the law applied to an official who conducted an illegal strip-search to see someone naked. Finally, an unpaid volunteer firefighter was convicted of official misconduct for causing false alarms where his only "benefit" was, as the court wrote, "the joy of responding to fires as a volunteer firefighter." Penalties In New Jersey, the crime of Official Misconduct is a crime of the second-degree with a presumption of state prison. If the value of the benefit was less than $200, the official misconduct would be a crime of the third-degree. Remember, that if the benefit has no monetary value, then the charge is the second-degree crime. In addition, this crime has a special sentencing enhancement under N.J.S.A. 2C:43-6.5. If you are convicted of a crime that "involves or touches" your government employment, the Judge must sentence you to a mandatory minimum term of imprisonment without eligibility for parole. For a third-degree crime, you must serve two years in prison before you are eligible for parole. For a second-degree crime you must serve five years in prison before you are eligible for parole. You face a mandatory prison sentence for an action, which may have given you no monetary benefit.

Jeremy S Geigle | Oct 9, 2013

Mormon Missionary Impersonators Commit Armed Robbery

At 6:20 in the morning on June 27, two males dressed as Mormon missionaries knocked on the door of a Las Vegas home. When the resident of the home came to the door, the two men asked if they could speak to him about their religion. The man complied and invited the visitors into his home, only to have them rob him at gunpoint minutes later. Armed Robbery According to the victim, the fake missionaries spoke to him for about 5 minutes before punching him and demanding property. He also stated that one of the men was armed with a handgun and held him at gunpoint while taking items from his home. According to A.R.S. 13-1904, a person commits armed robbery in Arizona if, in the course of committing a robbery, such person or an accomplice: -Is armed with a deadly weapon or simulated deadly weapon, or -Uses or threatens to use a deadly weapon, simulated deadly weapon, or dangerous instrument. Armed robbery is typically charged as a class 2 felony in AZ. Can someone be charged with armed robbery, even if they weren’t the person with the weapon? Yes. It is important to note from the statue above that an accomplice can be charged with armed robbery, even if they were not the person with the weapon in their possession. It is also important to note that asimulated deadly weapon, such as a fake gun, can also be grounds for an armed robbery charge, even if the offender had no intentions of hurting anyone in the commission of their crime.

Jeremy S Geigle | Jul 18, 2013

Phoenix Man Experiences Christmas Early…in the Form of an Armed Robbery

In March, a Phoenix man was approached by his ex-girlfriend, 21-year-old Christmas Snow Pringle, who asked him for money. The man agreed to give her funds, so Pringle came to his house, took the money, and left. Later that evening, Pringle returned to the man’s house with a male friend, who asked to use the man’s bathroom. The man welcomed them into his house, only to be held at gunpoint by Pringle’s accomplice. Reportedly, Pringle’s friend held a gun at the victim’s head and demanded money. The victim handed over $160, and the pair left his home. Pringle was not arrested until early May, and was eventually charged with armed robbery. During questioning, she allegedly changed her story multiple times before she proceeded to act “as though she had a severe speech impediment and indicated it was due to her mental handicap" during an interview with a detective. The detective reported that, prior to the interview, Ms. Pringle had shown no signs of a mental handicap nor a speech impediment. Pretending that you have a speech impediment, a mental handicap, or that you otherwise can’t understand or respond to an officer is never a good idea, especially when you are being investigated for a crime. It is recommended that you be honest with law enforcement, or that you request to speak with your attorney before offering any information. In Arizona, armed robbery is defined in A.R.S. 13-1904 as follows: A person commits armed robbery in AZ if, in the course of committing robbery, such person or an accomplice is (a) armed with a deadly weapon or simulated deadly weapon, or (b) uses or threatens to use a deadly weapon or dangerous instrument or a simulated deadly weapon. Armed robbery is typically charged as a class 2 felony in Arizona. In comparison to a regular robbery charge, a conviction for armed robbery comes with increased prison time, fines, and other penalties in AZ.

Jeremy S Geigle | Jul 18, 2013

Former Maricopa Deputy Charged with Aggravated Assault

Former Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office deputy, Tim Abrahamson, recently pleaded guilty to aggravated assault after he attacked his wife’s lover in North Dakota. Reportedly, Abrahamson’s wife had an affair with an ex-boyfriend during a trip to North Dakota in 2011. After living with the fact for over a year, the former deputy apparently decided it was finally time to do something about it. Abrahamson and Deputy Steve Carpenter, his apparent accomplice, rented a sedan and drove the approximate 1,600 miles up to West Fargo on September 16, 2012. The two men pulled up to the home of the victim and left him bloody and unconscious. It was reported that the attack left the victim without part of his ear. Abrahamson lives in Glendale and has worked for MCSO for seven years; he resigned on November 30 after he was arrested on November 7 in Phoenix. He has been charged with aggravated assault and will await sentencing on June 27. He faces up to 5 years in prison, though he will likely receive less as this is his first offense. Carpenter was granted immunity by the prosecution in return for information about Abrahamson and the attack; he was placed on paid leave starting November 8 and his employment status is unknown. In Arizona, an assault charge can have seriously detrimental effects on the accused, including prison time, fines, and potential termination from employment. When an individual is charged with assault or aggravated assault, employers may deem them a danger to others.

Russell J. Ferraro III | Feb 28, 2013

Downward Departure From The Florida Criminal Punishment Code

Since 2008, Florida Judges have used the Criminal Punishment Code to determine the appropriate sentence for felony offenses. The Florida Legislature has laid out a detailed blue print for minimum and maximum sentences that individual criminal defendants may receive based on the charges they are accused of, their prior record, and certain aggravating or mitigating circumstances like whether someone was injured. Each factor will increase the defendant’s score. If the defendant scores less than 22 points, the judge cannot sentence the defendant to prison without making aggravating findings on the record. Likewise, if the defendant scores 44 points or more, the defendant must receive a prison sentence unless the judge finds a legal reason for a downward departure. Statutory Reasons For A Downward Departure According to Florida law: Mitigating circumstances under which a departure from the lowest permissible sentence is reasonably justified include, but are not limited to: (a) The departure results from a legitimate, uncoerced plea bargain. (b) The defendant was an accomplice to the offense and was a relatively minor participant in the criminal conduct. (c) The capacity of the defendant to appreciate the criminal nature of the conduct or to conform that conduct to the requirements of law was substantially impaired. (d) The defendant requires specialized treatment for a mental disorder that is unrelated to substance abuse or addiction or for a physical disability, and the defendant is amenable to treatment. (e) The need for payment of restitution to the victim outweighs the need for a prison sentence. (f) The victim was an initiator, willing participant, aggressor, or provoker of the incident. (g) The defendant acted under extreme duress or under the domination of another person. (h) Before the identity of the defendant was determined, the victim was substantially compensated. (i) The defendant cooperated with the state to resolve the current offense or any other offense. (j) The offense was committed in an unsophisticated manner and was an isolated incident for which the defendant has shown remorse. (k) At the time of the offense the defendant was too young to appreciate the consequences of the offense. (l) The defendant is to be sentenced as a youthful offender. (m) The defendant's offense is a nonviolent felony, the defendant's Criminal Punishment Code scoresheet total sentence points under s. 921.0024 are 60 points or fewer, and the court determines that the defendant is amenable to the services of a postadjudicatory treatment-based drug court program and is otherwise qualified to participate in the program as part of the sentence. For purposes of this paragraph, the term “nonviolent felony" has the same meaning as provided in s. 948.08(6). (n) The defendant was making a good faith effort to obtain or provide medical assistance for an individual experiencing a drug-related overdose. In deciding if a downward departure sentence below the sentencing guidelines is appropriate, the trial court must follow a two-step process; first, the trial court must determine whether there is a valid legal basis for the departure sentence that is supported by facts proven by a preponderance of the evidence. If so, trial court must then determine whether a departure sentence is the best sentencing option for the defendant by weighing totality of circumstances in the case, including any aggravating and mitigating factors. When A Downward Departure Is Not Appropriate Interestingly, the legislature made itself clear that the factors listed above are not necessarily the only factors. Still, a downward departure for reasons not set forth above is only permissible if supported by competent, substantial evidence and not otherwise prohibited. The legislature and appellate courts have been better at defining what should not be considered than they have been about defining what other factors can or will be considered. For example, the defendant's substance abuse or addiction, including intoxication at the time of the offense, is not a mitigating factor and does not, under any circumstances, justify a downward departure from the permissible sentencing range. Additionally, it is improper for a trial court to impose a downward departure sentence based on the trial court's perception that the lowest permissible sentence under the Criminal Punishment Code is not commensurate with the seriousness of the crime. When A Downward Departure May Be Appropriate At least one trial court set forth a scenario that the appellate courts approved as a legal reason for a downward departure that is not specifically set out in the statute. That Miami trial court termed it “sentence manipulation". In that case, a downward departure sentence was appropriate for a defendant convicted of total of six counts of sale of cocaine, possession of cocaine, and sale of cocaine within 1,000 feet of a school, because the state conceded that police had engaged in sentence manipulation, but police conduct did not rise to level of entrapment and where sentence imposed was not lower than what defendant would have received had police not engaged in sentence manipulation. In that case, the trial court found that the defendant could have been arrested after the first of six undercover drug buys, but police continued to arrange additional undercover buys for express and sole purpose of increasing defendant's sentencing exposure. While this presents a pretty specific set of facts, these facts are not necessarily unique to this defendant. Frequently, police officers target specific drug dealers to investigate and often make several controlled buys before making an arrest. If you find yourself in a situation where you are facing a mandatory prison sentence due to your score, you owe it to yourself to meet with a qualified criminal defense attorney to discuss the facts of your case and your options. The lawyers of the Ferraro Law Group have been practicing criminal defense since 1974. We purposefully manage smaller case loads to ensure that your case gets the attention that you deserve. Contact us now for a free consultation.