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Can being present at the scene of a crime make you guilty?

Posted: September 23rd, 2015 | Expert Advice | No Comments

By Stephen G. Cline | The Law Offices of Stephen G. Cline

While generally it is a bad idea to be present at the scene of a crime; the “right” answer to this question depends upon the specific facts present in your situation. Simply being present does not automatically infer guilt. However, the more you are involved or knew about the commission of the crime, the more likely it is you face some criminal responsibility.

Stephen G. Cline | San Diego Criminal Defense Attorney | The Law Offices of Stephen G. Cline

Stephen G. Cline | San Diego Criminal Defense Attorney | The Law Offices of Stephen G. Cline

To be “guilty” of a crime, the prosecution must show “beyond a reasonable doubt” that you committed the acts required for that criminal offense. You can be prosecuted for actually committing the specific crime charged. For example, you specifically fired the gun and wounded or killed someone.

You can also be prosecuted for that offense even though you did not personally commit the actual crime. If you simply assisted in some way, no matter how small, the actual perpetrator of the crime, you can be prosecuted under a theory that you “aided and/or abetted” in the commission of that crime.   For example, if you assisted someone or drove someone to a place where he/she fired a gun and wounded or killed someone.

The prosecution can also prosecute you for the crime under a theory that you and others agreed to take steps required to commit the crime. If such an agreement was present and you took some step to further that agreement, no matter how small, you can be convicted of the actual crime as a co-conspirator. For example, if you and others agreed on a plan to shoot that person and you specifically went and got the bullets for the gun even though you were not present for the shooting.

With these three methods of prosecution in mind, criminal liability for your presence at a crime scene would depend on several factors. Were you present for the actual crime or just come upon the scene later? When you were at the scene, did you participate in the crime itself? If not, did you know what was going to happen and/or assist the actual perpetrator in any way? In the end, being present at the scene is never a good idea. But presence, without far more, does not automatically infer guilt.

Stephen Cline offers case evaluations at no cost and with no obligation. Call (619) 235-5638 today or visit us online at sandiegotrialattorney.com if you’ve been charged with a crime.

Stephen G. Cline is a San Diego criminal defense lawyer with more than 20 years of experience defending criminal cases. He started his career as a deputy public defender before moving into private practice and opening The Law Offices of Stephen G. Cline in San Diego’s Gaslamp Quarter. He handles all criminal matters in local and federal courts, from petty theft to arson.

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