Monday, May 19, 2014

THE ILLINOIS LAW ON CRIMINAL ACCOUNTABILITY

Illinois law punishes those who have a “common design” in committing a crime.

Under Illinois accountability law, you can be charged with another’s crime when either before or during the offense, you solicit, aid, abet, agree or attempt to aid, such other person in the planning or commission of the offense” while intending to promote or facilitate the crime. (720 ILCS 5/5-2).

To prove a defendant intended to aid a crime, the State must show either (1) the defendant shared the criminal intent of the main defendant, or (2) there was a common criminal design. Under the common design rule, if “two or more persons engage in a common criminal design or agreement, any acts in the furtherance of that common design committed by one party are considered to be the acts of all parties to the design or agreement and all are equally responsible for the consequences of the further acts.” (See People v Fernandez). In other words, you can be charged with any crime your co-defendant commits even if you were nowhere in sight. The state may also prove you had a common purpose if you voluntarily joined a group that you knew intended to commit a crime.

One example of accountability law is People v Kessler. A defendant and two other men planned to burglarize a bar. The two men entered the bar while defendant waited in the car. Surprised by the bar owner, the men shot and wounded the owner, then fled on foot. Police chased them and one man shot at police. Although defendant remained in the car the whole time, he was convicted of the burglary and the attempted murders. (See People v Kessler).

If you are charged because of another’s crime, contact an experienced criminal law attorney immediately. Do not discuss your situation with the police or third parties. Any attempt to explain yourself might give the prosecution just the evidence they need to convict you as well as limit any potential defense.

As with most crimes, the State must prove you guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Did you know what was going on? Maybe you gave the co-defendant a baseball bat because they told you they were going to play ball. Even if the evidence against you is overwhelming, an attorney who is respected in the courthouse, may be able to negotiate a better plea agreement than you could on your own.

If you have questions about this or another related criminal or traffic matter, please contact Matt Keenan at 847-568-0160 or email matt@mattkeenanlaw.com.

(Besides Skokie, Matt Keenan also serves the communities of Arlington Heights, Chicago, Deerfield, Des Plaines, Evanston, Glenview, Morton Grove, Mount Prospect, Niles, Northbrook, Park Ridge, Rolling Meadows, Wilmette and Winnetka.)

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