This blog serves to explore this fundamental question: Who can be charged with a criminal offense?
O.C.G.A. § 16-2-20(a) provides, every person “concerned in the commission of a crime” is a party thereto and may be charged with and convicted of commission of the crime.
What does it mean to be “concerned in the commission of a crime”?
O.C.G.A. § 16-2-20(b) states a person is concerned in the commission of a crime only if he:
(1) Directly commits the crime;
(2) Intentionally causes some other person to commit the crime under such circumstances that the other person is not guilty of any crime either in fact or because of legal incapacity;
(3) Intentionally aids or abets in the commission of the crime; or
(4) Intentionally advises, encourages, hires, counsels, or procures another to commit the crime.
Therefore, under Georgia law, a person may be convicted of a crime even if he or she does not directly commit the crime, but is instead a party to the crime. Demps v. State, 337 Ga.App. 657 (2016). To be convicted as a party to a crime, there must be proof, beyond a reasonable doubt, that he or she intentionally aided or abetted the commission of the crime, or intentionally advised, encouraged, hired, counseled, or procured another to commit the crime. Lonon v. State, 348 Ga.App. 527 (2019).
Importantly, all of the participants in a plan to commit a crime are criminally responsible for the acts of each other, committed in the execution of the plan, and which may be said to be a probable consequence of the unlawful design, even though the particular act may not have actually been a part of the plan. Cisneros v. State, 299 Ga. 841, (2016). For example, if Bob, Joe, and Rob all agree to rob a bank, and during the robbery Rob spontaneously kills a bank teller, both Bob and Joe could be convicted of murder because they are a party to the crime.
Whether a person is a party to a crime may be inferred from that person’s presence, companionship, and conduct before, during, and after the crime. Harper v. State, 298 Ga. 158 (2015). Other examples include:
- Serving as the getaway driver in an armed robbery.
- Turning off the alarm system of a store in where you work, knowing that it will be robbed later that day.
- Providing a firearm to someone who you know is planning to commit a crime.
- Directing a vehicle to a location where you know an armed carjacker is waiting.
But, mere presence at the scene of a crime and mere approval of the criminal act are not sufficient evidence to establish that the defendant was a party to the crime. Garcia v. State, 290 Ga.App. 164 (2008).
If you or someone you know is facing criminal prosecution, please contact our office today at 404-581-0999 for a free consultation. Our firm has specialized knowledge and experience in handling criminal cases in multiple jurisdictions across Georgia.