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    What If I Was “Just There” Can They Charge Me? -The Defense of “Mere Presence.”

    By H. Michael Steinberg Colorado Drug Crimes Criminal Defense Lawyer

    What If I Was - Just There - Can They Charge Me -The Defense of - Mere Presence 1-What If I Was “Just There” Can They Charge Me? -The Defense of “Mere Presence.” I often get the question – “I was just there – how can they charge me with a crime?” This article addresses the defense of “mere presence” and accomplice or complicity criminal liability.

    The law in this area has always been clear – there is no legal duty in witnessing a crime in progress to report that crime or to prevent that crime from occurring.

    Even you are in the presence of people who are in the midst of the commission of the crime – assuming you have done nothing to encourage or instigate the crime, you hve done nothing illegal.

    There are many defenses that are potentially available in a given criminal case.

    Among them are:.

    • Someone else did it.
    • Mere presence – (this article).
    • False confession.
    • Mistaken identity.
    • Alibi.
    • Self-Defense – Defense of others.
    • Accident – Mistake
    • Necessity – Choice of Evils Defense
    • Duress
    • Mental illness
    • Entrapment
    • Double Jeopardy

    The Mere Presence Defense – The Difference Between Doing Nothing  And Aiding And Abetting

    While I have written on the topic of mere presence before – recent Colorado cases have brought the subject to the fore once again.

    When one “aids and abets” in the commission of a crime “he associates himself with the undertaking, participates in it as in something he desires to bring about, and seeks by his action to make it succeed.”

    As noted above – mere knowledge or physical presence at the scene of a crime does NOT constitute a crime and it will NOT provide a legal basis for a charge based on the aiding and abetting of a crime.

    Aiding and abetting essentially means actually … somehow … assisting in the commission of someone else’s crime and the proof of this status requires that a Defendant embrace the commission of the crime of another and then consciously do something to contribute to the success of that crime.

    Understanding Colorado’s Complicity – Or Accomplice Liability Law §18-1-603, C.R.S.

    Complicity means a situation where the evidence … establishes that two or more persons were jointly engaged in the commission of a crime”

    A person is liable as a principal for the behavior of another:

    ” if, with the intent to promote or facilitate the commission of the offense, he or she aids, abets, advises, or encourages the other person in planning or committing the offense.” § 18-1-603.”

    A mere bystander only becomes a complicitor if that person has the culpable mental state required for the underlying crime committed by the principal


    …the complicitor must intend that his own conduct promote or facilitate the commission of the crime committed by the principal.

    An Example – Renting An Apartment To A Person Selling Drugs From the Apartment

    If the accused in a drug crimes case allows another man to rent an apartment and the accused knew that renter distributed controlled substances from that apartment and allowed the renter to use the accused’s apartment for such purposes… there is sufficient evidence to justify a prosecution under a complicity theory.

    On the other hand – if a neighbor was aware of the sales of drugs going on in the apartment next door – and does nothing to stop it – including not calling the police – that is NOT a crime in described above.

    What If I Was “Just There” Can They Charge Me -The Defense of “Mere Presence.”

    If you found any of the information I have provided on this web page article helpful please click my Plus+1 or the Share buttons for Twitter and Facebook below so that others may also find it.

    The reader is admonished that Colorado criminal law, like criminal law in every state and at the Federal level, changes constantly. The article appearing above was accurate at the time it was drafted but it cannot account for changes occurring after it was uploaded.

    If, after reading this article, you have questions about your case and would like to consider retaining our law firm, we invite you to contact us at the Steinberg Colorado Criminal Defense Law Firm – 303-627-7777.

    Never stop fighting – never stop believing in yourself and your right to due process of law. You will not be alone in court, H. Michael will be at your side every step of the way – advocating for justice and the best possible result in your case. H. Michael Steinberg is passionate about criminal defense. His extensive knowledge and experience of Colorado Criminal Law gives him the edge you need to properly handle your case

    Over 40 Years Specializing in Colorado Criminal LawABOUT THE AUTHOR: H. Michael Steinberg – Email The Author at [email protected] – A Denver Colorado Criminal Defense Lawyer – or call his office at 303-627-7777 during business hours – or call his cell if you cannot wait and need his immediate assistance – please call 720-220-2277.

    “A good criminal defense lawyer is someone who devotes themselves to their client’s case from beginning to end, always realizing that this case is the most important thing in that client’s life.”

    You should be careful to make a responsible choice in selecting a Colorado Criminal Defense Lawyer. We encourage you to “vet” our firm. Over the last 40 plus years – by focusing ONLY on Colorado criminal law – H. Michael has had the necessary time to commit to the task of constantly updating himself on nearly every area of criminal law, to include Colorado criminal law and procedure and trial and courtroom practice. H. Michael works hard to get his clients the best possible results in and out of the courtroom. He has written, and continues to write, extensively on Colorado criminal law and he hopes this article helps you in some small way – What If I Was “Just There” Can They Charge Me -The Defense of “Mere Presence.”

    What If I Was
    Article Name
    What If I Was
    I often get the question - "I was just there - how can they charge me with a crime?" This article addresses the defense of "mere presence" and accomplice or complicity criminal liability.

    Other Articles of Interest:

    If you found the information provided on this webpage to be helpful, please click my Plus+1 button so that others may also find it.

    H. Michael Steinberg Esq.
    Attorney and Counselor at Law
    The Colorado Criminal Defense Law Firm of H. Michael Steinberg
    A Denver, Colorado Lawyer Focused Exclusively On
    Colorado Criminal Law For Over 40 Years.
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    8400 East Prentice Ave, Penthouse 1500
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