SailorsAllen Law

What to do When Your Friend Breaks the Law

The week of August 21, 2017, brought forth a couple of published Minnesota criminal law decisions.   State v. Larsen, answered the question that has been bandied about in legal circles for decades, is a home a fixture if you crash into it while driving drunk?  Spoiler Alert, it is not and one of the dragons is now a wight.   But today we are going to get into the weeds with accomplice liability.  Literally hiding someone who committed a crime in the weeds would make you an accomplice.  This case is from Mille Lacs County and is State v. Smith, (A16-1607).

It involved a young woman who was named Daley.   Side note, because this is the part of the blog where I always lose my focus, she was a client of mine one time and I asked a bailiff if they have seen Daley Smith before calling the case.  They said no, but they saw her cousin Weekly, which I put on the record like a moron.  So hopefully that was a worthwhile digression.  Daley had a boyfriend named Chadric.  Who sounds like a dainty Brit but he wasn’t.  Chadric robbed three people and took their cell phones.   One of those people had the initials J.F.  The day before the robbery, J.F. agreed to borrow Daley but changed her mind.   Daley went to the home where JF lived and asked to see JF but JF hid in a bedroom to avoid her.   Daley later came back with Chadric.  He pulled a bandana over his face which is sort of stupid because they likely would have seen his face prior to that.  He attacked the other two people in the house. He also had a gun  One of the people with the initials AM said Daley blocked her way when she was trying to flee.   Daley then went into the back bedroom where JF was hiding.  JF called 911.  Chadric came in and took JF’s money, her phone which was in the middle of a call to 911 and some prescription pills.  Chadric and Daley left together.   The State charged Daley with aiding and abetting first degree aggravated robbery.  The jury was instructed that a defendant’s presence constitutes aiding if “the defendant knew her alleged accomplices were going to or were committing a crime” and “intended that her presence and actions aid the commission of the crime.” This accomplice-liability instruction mirrored the CRIMJIG 4.01 instruction. 10 Minnesota Practice, CRIMJIG 4.01 (Supp. 2016).

The question became did the court error in the instruction with accomplice liability?

“A person is criminally liable for a crime committed by another if the person intentionally aids, advises, hires, counsels, or conspires with or otherwise procures the other to commit the crime.” Minn. Stat. § 609.05, subd. 1.  So think of Ocean’s 11 or to be more topical, a bunch of idiots who plan to kidnap a wight and take it to a queen who could care less.   Milton is the seminal case on the issue. That case held accomplice-liability instruction must adequately explain the “intentionally aiding” element of section 609.05, subdivision 1. Milton, 821 N.W.2d at 808. “Intentionally aiding” has been interpreted to include two mens rea elements: (1) “the defendant knew his alleged accomplice was going to commit a crime,” and (2) “the defendant intended his presence or actions to further the commission of that crime.” Huber, 877 N.W.2d at 524 (quotation omitted); Milton, 821 N.W.2d at 808.

Daley made a precog argument.   For another stupid reference explained, precogs were the bizarre creatures in Tom Cruise’s “Minority Report.”  They predicted crime while in a hot tub.  Daley argues that the case law indicates she needed to know her accomplice was going to commit a crime.   As opposed to during and after.   The COA was in a hypothetical mood and presented some scenarios.  We are going to use their hypo’s by changing them up a little.

For example, if a person plans to rob a Chick-fil-A and asks a friend for a ride to the Chick-fil-A, if the friend provides the ride and gets Spicey Deluxe, she has aided a crime. But if the friend did not know of the intent to commit a crime, she could not form the necessary intent to aid the crime.  If, on the other hand, the would-be unscrupulous person informs the friend that he plans to urinate in Sleep Number Store and asks for a ride to the Sleep Number in order to do so, the friend is guilty as an accomplice if she provides the ride. In this second scenario, the friend both possessed knowledge of the crime, and intended to aid by providing a ride. However, there is a third scenario: the friend becomes aware of the urinator’s criminal plans upon arriving at the Sleep Number and continues to assist by distracting the salesperson by pretending to be interested in Sleep Number waterbed after learning that the urinating is taking place. Here, the friend possesses knowledge of the crime at a point in time at or before rendering aid. If the friend, with knowledge of the urination, provides the get-away ride or otherwise aids in the commission of the crime, the elements of Minn. Stat. § 609.05 are satisfied.

Bottom line is you can be accomplice at a Sleep Number Store before, during or after the crime.  The COA says this jury instruction included this language and satisfactorily protects innocent people.   So, the lesson here is simple.  If you see your friend order a water at Chick-fil-A and see them fill it with a pop instead you need to flee or turn do what the person did in my Sleep Number hypothetical and leak the information.