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Being charged as an accomplice in Washington

Washington residents who help others to commit crimes may be charged as accomplices, and the penalties they face will be generally be based on their level of involvement. Individuals may sometimes be considered complicit for simply not doing enough to prevent a crime from being committed. One of the most important considerations when assessing the culpability of accomplices is whether or not the assistance they provided was offered knowingly and voluntarily.

Prosecutors must usually establish that alleged accomplices provided assistance, guidance or encouragement that helped others to commit a crime. Examples of complicity include keeping watch while a crime is being committed, driving a getaway vehicle, disabling security systems or otherwise facilitating a criminal entry and providing criminals with weapons or other items that were used in the commission of a crime.

There is an important legal distinction between conspiracy and complicity. Conspirators take part in the planning of a criminal act while accomplices provide the criminals involved with assistance. Individuals who conspire with others to commit crimes may be convicted of conspiracy even if the crime is not committed, and conspirators could also be charged as accomplices in certain situations. Simply being involved in the planning a crime is rarely sufficient to secure a conviction for conspiracy, and prosecutors generally only pursue such cases when overt action, such as procuring weapons, equipment or a getaway vehicle, has been taken.

Police officers sometimes try to intimidate alleged accomplices by telling them that they will face the same penalties as those who committed the felony in question. While this could be true in some situations, criminal defense attorneys may urge their clients to withstand this type of psychological pressure. Most criminal cases are resolved by negotiated plea agreements, and defense attorneys could have a much weaker position in these discussions if their clients have already told the authorities everything they know.

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