In Texas, mere presence at a crime scene alone is insufficient to sustain a conviction. The difference between just being at a crime scene and doing something that can be considered aiding or abetting is paper thin, however. And if you're complicit in an offense — you can be held equally responsible.
Texas has what is called the "law of parties" in criminal cases. It is governed by Section 7.02 of the Texas Penal Code. Tex.Pen.C. 7.02(2) says that if a person, " solicits, encourages, directs, aids, or attempts to aid the other person to commit the offense…" then they are criminally liable as well. The italicized emphasis demonstrates just how liberal the application of that law can be.
Let me give you a hypothetical of how this rule applies. Take two 18-year old boys at the mall. One decides he's going to shoplift and the other doesn't know about it. If the friend doesn't see and doesn't know that the other was trying to steal as they all walk out of the store — it would be very difficult to say the non-stealing friend is guilty under the "law of parties." Certainly the shop owner and police may think so; but they would have to prove that in court.
On the other hand, let's say the one guy is trying to shoplift and friend sees it. He doesn't participate, but he gets nervous and when the shop owner looks over at him, he "acts natural." Are both guilty of theft? It's a tough question. Some jurors may consider that aiding or attempting to aid in the furtherance of the offense.
Issues like these are why criminal defense lawyers experienced in trial are crucial. A criminal defense lawyer can force the prosecution to prove the complicit beyond all reasonable doubt. If the prosecution can't, then there will be an acquittal. The burden is on the state to prove your intent and your actions. The burden isn't on you to show you were innocent!
It should be noted that there are many offenses where people have an affirmative duty to report the crime that they've witnessed. This generally includes felony offenses and other cases where the witness owes a special duty to the victim. Also anytime a person suspects abuse or neglect of a child, they have a legal duty to report the same to Child Protective Services.
If you are seeking aggressive criminal representation by an experienced criminal defense attorney for your Denton County theft case or arrest in Denton County, contact the offices of Tim Powers today. There is no charge or obligation for the initial consultation. 940.580.2899.
*Tim Powers is an attorney licensed to practice law by the Supreme Court of Texas. Nothing in this article is intended to be legal advice. For legal advice about any specific legal question you should directly consult an attorney.