Friday, November 20, 2020

CAN I BE CHARGED WITH A CRIME WHEN I WASN’T EVEN ON THE SCENE?

The answer is yes--if the prosecution can prove you intended to help with the crime.

Under one definition of Illinois accountability law: A person is legally accountable for the conduct of another when either before or during the offense, and with intent to facilitate the offense, you solicit, aid, abet, agree, or attempt to aid another person in the planning or commission of the offense. 720 ILCS 5/5-2.

The State must prove your intent to facilitate by establishing either that (1) you shared the criminal intent of the principal offender; or (2) you and the principal offender had a common criminal design—i.e., you both intended to commit some other crime that was advanced by the crime charged. The state may infer common design from the circumstances surrounding the crime. The state need not show that you said words of agreement or that you actively participated.

Whether there is enough evidence to prove you were in on the crime is highly fact specific and may depend on the viewpoint of your particular judge. In one Illinois case, the court rejected evidence that defendant’s presence at the crime scene, knowledge that a crime had been committed and his subsequent flight amounted to accountability. (People v. Johnson, 2014 IL App (1st) 122459-B.) In People v. Ramos, the appellate court rejected a lower court’s interpretation of events, that the defendant had advance knowledge of a gang-related shooting, overturning his conviction.

If you have been charged with a crime, contact an experienced criminal law attorney immediately. An attorney can review your case for its best possible defense. Can the state prove intent beyond a reasonable doubt? Is there clear evidence of your involvement? Even if the evidence against you is overwhelming, an attorney who is respected in the courthouse may be able to negotiate a more favorable plea agreement than you could on your own.

If you have questions about this or another related Illinois 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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