The Complexity of Complicity

RCW 9A.08.020 is Washington State’s complicity statute. Under RCW 9A.08.020 a person is “complicit” – and thus guilty of a crime – if he is an “accomplice” of a person that commits a crime. A person is an “accomplice” if, with knowledge that he is promoting or facilitating the commission of a crime, he aids another person in committing that crime. General knowledge by an accomplice that a person intends to commit “a crime” does not impose strict liability for any and all offenses that follow by his actions. State v. Roberts, 142 Wn.2d 471, 513, 14 P.3d 713 (2000).

Notwithstanding the foregoing, the Washington State Supreme Court has made it very clear that an accomplice need not have knowledge of each and every element of a primary perpetrator’s crime to be convicted under RCW 9A.08.020; a general knowledge of “the crime” has been deemed sufficient. State v. Davis, 101 Wn.2d 654, 682 P.2d 883 (1984). It is also very important to note that an accomplice, who has otherwise agreed to participate in a criminal act, runs the risk of having the primary actor actually exceed the scope of the pre-planned illegality and regardless of such, still be found guilty of the act as an accomplice due to his complicity. For example, a person who is charged with felony assault as an accomplice is only required to have known “generally” that he was facilitating an assault (even just a misdemeanor level assault 4) and need not have known that the principal actor was going to use deadly force, or that the principal actor was actually armed in order to be found guilty of felony assault.” In re Pers. Restraint of Sarausad, 109 Wn. App. 824, 836, 39 P.3d 308 (2001). In other words, the act may go beyond what the accomplice ever thought was going to occur and still be held accountable for the actual crime committed, just as if he committed the crime himself or intended the actual crime to occur.  Complicity laws in the State of Washington are extremely tough; a person can be convicted of an extremely serious crime when the act simply got “way out of hand”, or went well beyond the scope of his personal intentions.

If you or a loved one is cited or charged with a crime in Western Washington (whether as a primary aggressor or as an accomplice) it is imperative that a Seattle criminal attorney be retained as soon as possible to ensure all personal, professional and financial interests are protected. Seattle criminal defense lawyers Greg Schwesinger and Saad Qadri of SQ Attorneys represent those individuals criminally charged through all phases of their Washington State criminal case. The Seattle criminal attorneys of SQ Attorneys are experienced and proven negotiators that make a world of difference for those accused of committing a crime. SQ Attorneys is a team of seasoned Seattle criminal lawyers that work tirelessly to achieve the best possible outcome for each and every client they have the honor of representing. Arrested for committing a crime in Western Washington? Call The Criminal Defense Team of SQ Attorneys at (206) 441-0900 or (425) 998-8384 for an initial free consultation.

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10.0Gregory Wayne Schwesinger
10.0Saad Qamer Qadri