We all have that friend…the one that instigates everything. They talk us into doing unsavory – sometimes even illegal – things. There may even be times when they don’t even ask.
Take two Lubbock men recently charged with aggravated robbery. One allegedly walked into two separate cell phone stores, brandished a gun, and made threats on employees’ lives before asking for cash. The other suspect simply drove the car.
Unfortunately, in Texas, the courts tend to follow the old adage, “you are the company you keep.” Act as a getaway driver for a robbery in this state, and the implication is that you are just as guilty – and you’re going to need a good Texas criminal lawyer.
To best understand how someone who did nothing more than drive a car could end up behind bars for aggravated robbery, you must look at exactly how Texas robbery charges work.
Elements of a Robbery Offense in Texas
When the owner or person controlling the property in question isn’t present, it’s considered burglary. A robbery, on the other hand, occurs when someone takes someone else’s property directly from their person, or in their presence, by force.
Already, this adds an element of violence in the eyes of Texas law. Most cases involve proving that the defendant “intentionally, knowingly or recklessly threatened the victim or caused the victim to fear bodily injury or death.”
Elevating a robbery crime to the next level can happen when any of the following “aggravating” factors are proven to be present:
- Use or exhibition of a deadly weapon
- Victim is 65 years of age or older or disabled
- Bodily injury or death actually occurs
Okay, but the driver of the vehicle in Lubbock… he didn’t do any of this. You’re probably asking yourself, then, how can he be charged for robbery too? In Texas, it’s called “complicity.”
Criminal Responsibility in Texas: Complicity of an Accomplice
According to the law on criminal responsibility, a person can be held liable for an offense committed by another person in three specific situations:
- When an accomplice deliberately acts in a way that he causes or aids an innocent or non-responsible person to engage in illicit conduct.
- If the accomplice acts with intent of promoting or assisting the crime’s commission or attempts to aid the other party to commit the offense.
- In the event an accomplice has a legal duty to prevent the commission of the offense, but fails to make a reasonable effort in preventing it.
In any of these occurrences, all traditional lines between accomplice and principal disappear. Every party involved in the offense is subject to charges and conviction of the same crime without regard to who physically carried it out.
What’s more, those found criminally responsible in a conspiracy to carry out one felony – armed robbery, for instance – can also be held liable for any other felony committed during the conspired crime, whether it was intentional or not — say, a victim ended up being shot.
For our Lubbock getaway driver, therein lies the rub. Perhaps a defense could be made for lack of knowledge or intent if there’d only been a single hold-up. But two stores? It’s just not going to fly.
Texas Robbery Is Always a Felony Offense
When an accomplice getaway driver is charged with aggravated robbery in Texas, it’s time to look at developing a defense as sound as if they were the one demanding the money and brandishing a gun.
Otherwise, you can count on facing steep penalties, including prison time and a hefty fine. Texas robbery is a felony of the second degree, carrying 2-20 years incarceration and a fine up to $10,000.
Our Lubbock accomplice’s partner in crime committed aggravated robbery. In turn, his charges will be elevated to a first-degree felony. If convicted, he’ll face five to 99 years in state prison and/or a maximum fine of $10,000, too.
About the Author:
After getting his Juris Doctor from the University of Houston Law Center, Jeff Hampton began practicing criminal law in Texas in 2005. Before becoming a defense attorney, he worked as a prosecutor for the Tarrant County District Attorney’s Office – experience he uses to anticipate and cast doubt on the arguments that will be used against his clients. Over the course of his career, he has helped countless Texans protect their rights and get the best possible outcome in their criminal cases. His skill has earned him recognition from the National Trial Lawyers (Top 100 Trial Lawyers) and Avvo (Top Attorney in Criminal Defense, Top Attorney in DUI & DWI, 10/10 Superb Rating), and he is Lead Counsel rated.