Things that you don’t know can, and oftentimes, will hurt you. Under Florida’s criminal law, it appears to not be widely known by the average person that crimes committed by another person can get you into trouble under some circumstances. Florida Statute 777.011, entitled Principal in the first degree, states “Whoever commits any criminal offense against the state, whether felony or misdemeanor, or aids, abets, counsels, hires, or otherwise procures such offense to be committed, and such offense is committed or is attempted to be committed, is a principal in the first degree and may be charged, convicted, and punished as such, whether he or she is or is not actually or constructively present at the commission of such offense.” In short, you can be charged if you commit the crime or if you help or assist in anyway.
As a Jacksonville criminal defense lawyer, I have encountered the surprise of clients and family members, typically parents, who are puzzled how a person who was not present ends up being charged with a crime. For example, let’s say Jon Doe is a seventeen year old you man just a few weeks away from his eighteenth birthday. John knows of a house where there is a gun collection. John tells his friend, who has a history of burglarizing houses, where the house is located and how to find the guns inside the house. The friend later breaks into the home and steals the guns while John is at work. The friend has committed an Armed Burglary, which is a burglary committed when an offender is armed or becomes armed during the commission of a burglary. Here, John’s friend becomes armed when he steals the guns from the house. Can John be charged with Armed Burglary? The answer is “yes”. The horrible news for John is that Armed Burglary is an offense that is punishable by a maximum of life in prison. John’s age makes it likely that he will be charged as an adult under these circumstances.
Remember when a person aids or counsels another regarding the commission of a criminal offense, the person may be charged whether or not the person was present at the time the offense is committed. In the example used here John has certainly aided his friend with the Armed Burglary. At the Law Office of David M. Goldman, PLLC, we have experienced Jacksonville criminal defense lawyers that can help you or a loved one in your time of need. We can help protect your rights and help you reach the best outcome under the circumstances in your case. Initial consultations are free. Call us today to schedule your consultation with a qualified Jacksonville criminal defense lawyer.