What Evidence is Required to Establish Aiding and Abetting a Crime?

On November 12, 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court in the case of Rosemond v. United States, #12-895, on Petition for a Writ of Certiorari to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit, heard oral arguments.

The underlying case involved the issue of whether the jury instructions were adequate and the offense of aiding and abetting the use of a firearm during a drug trafficking offense can be established by the mere fact an individual knew (he had foreknowledge) the principal offender had a firearm or there must be proof that the individual acted with actual intent to encourage &/or enable the use of the weapon by the accomplice and, therefore, there was actual intent to further the crime in question. The various U.S. Circuit Courts of Appeal have been divided on interpreting the law, although in California the Ninth Circuit requires purposeful intent.

This is a fundamental issue that has been raised in countless situations; for example, the driver of a vehicle (wheelman) &/or a passenger in a car is aware an accomplice is carrying a weapon during a bank robbery. Criminal defense lawyers have maintained that knowledge is not intent, and this individual needs to intend the gun be used by the accomplice. The government has argued in these cases that if one participates in a crime knowing his accomplice has a gun then that constitutes intent to facilitate; they maintain it is irrelevant if the person wants his accomplice to use it or not.  

Besides the disparity in standards of proof in the various circuit courts, the significance in the case at hand goes to the huge sentence enhancement imposed upon the defendant, namely 14 years instead of 5 years as a result of the disparity in the particular and minority tenth circuit.

The official transcript of the oral argument in the Rosemond case can be viewed at

http://www.supremecourt.gov/oral_arguments/argument_transcripts/12-895_8m59.pdf

Police, bomb squad respond to arsenal in car trunk

commentary by SAM SPITAL, criminal defense lawyer:

“Officers of the San Diego State University arrested an underage individual who purchased alcohol at a CVS store using a fake ID, as reported in the UT online October 29, 2012 edition of the local newspaper. The police officers found a hugearsenal of weapons in his car trunk, including six shotguns and two rifles; in addition, there was a can of gasoline. It strains credulity to believe anyone would under any circumstances be in possession of such items in the quantity described in the article. Little more was reported, making it a challenge to provide an analysis or opine on a defense strategy.”

SAM SPITAL, Criminal Defense Lawyer