Accomplice Actus Reus


Fundamentals of Criminal Law

Adam J. McKee, Ph.D.

Jack Brown, Ph.D.


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In the majority of states and federally, an accomplice must voluntarily act in some manner to assist in the commission of the offense. Some common descriptors of the criminal act element required for accomplice liability are aid, abet, assist, counsel, command, induce, or procure.  Actions that would qualify as the accomplice criminal act are such things as helping plan the crime, driving a getaway vehicle after the commission of the crime, and luring a victim to the scene of the crime. The Model Penal Code defines the accomplice criminal act element as “aids…or attempts to aid such other person in planning or committing the offense.”  

It is worthy of note that a person’s mere presence at the scene of the crime, even presence at the scene combined with flight, is not sufficient to convert a bystander into an accomplice.  We can contrast this to statues that consider the circumstances where there is a legal duty to act.  if there is such a duty, a defendant who is present at the scene of a crime without preventing its occurrence could be liable as an accomplice in many jurisdictions.  This particular rule is quite common as it is an element of the Model Penal Code: “a person is an accomplice of another person in the commission of an offense if…having a legal duty to prevent the commission of the offense, fails to make proper effect so to do.”

Modification History

File Created:  07/12/2018

Last Modified:  07/12/2018

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This work is licensed under an Open Educational Resource-Quality Master Source (OER-QMS) License.

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