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Criminal Law Spring 2017

VII.A. Accomplice Liability

Most of the cases we have studied have involved only one criminal, and we have considered the culpability only of the principal actor committing the crime. In reality, however, many crimes implicate multiple people. Complicity is not actually a crime; rather, it is a theory of liability whereby a person can be criminally liable as an accomplice. In aiding a person who commits a crime, an accomplice becomes personally liable for the other person’s crime. Accomplice liability holds a person, as a result of his own actions, responsible for someone else’s actions. Increasing a person’s liability beyond the scope of his direct actions, however, risks overextending liability. Courts and legislatures often account for this by adjusting the mens rea requirement upward. How far should liability extend? To specifically intended results, to foreseeable results, or to all results that may occur? As you read these cases, note not only when courts attach accomplice liability, but also how far that liability extends.

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