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Understand what makes you a criminal accomplice before you talk

Most people have no idea that being an accomplice to a crime can land them in jail as long -- or even longer -- than the person who actually committed the crime!

Because of that, they will sometimes tell police what they know about a crime, never realizing that they're simultaneously confessing to a crime of their own.

If you have information about a crime, these are two important pieces of information you should know before you start talking.

1. Everything you say has the potential to put you in prison.

Even if you feel morally compelled to go to the police with your information, you need to talk to an attorney first.

There are often ways to relay the information without implicating yourself in the crime. Alternately, an attorney may be able to make you a deal -- your testimony in exchange for zero charges.

2. An accomplice knowingly acts in a way that helps, encourages, advises or orders the person who actually committed the crime into action.

You can be an accomplice both "before and after the fact." For example, if you drove your friend to the drug store with no idea that he was going to rob it but realized what he'd done when he hopped back in the vehicle, mask and gun in one hand and a stack of money in the other, the act of driving away -- even if you did it in a panic and on instinct -- makes you an accomplice to whatever happened inside that drug store. Driving away helped your friend commit the crime. (The correct thing to do in that situation would be to put on the brakes, take the key out of the ignition and get out of car while calling 911.)

3. Being an accomplice can easily lead to additional charges of conspiracy. You've conspired to commit a crime if you discussed a future crime with someone and agree to help -- whether you're actually serious or not. Saying, "I didn't think he'd really do it," won't help reduce your guilt under the law.

Don't attempt to defend yourself from criminal charges and never discuss a criminal situation that you may be involved in or have knowledge about with the police until you talk to an attorney first. Get representation that has experience and will aggressively defend your rights. Our firm may be able to help.

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