More times than I can remember, I have sat down with a client and had to explain the concept in Georgia law known as “party to a crime.” The Georgia Legislature was very careful in crafting a statute that allowed for prosecutors to bring charges against any and all persons involved in a criminal act, no matter how small a person’s role in that crime. With that in mind, I want to briefly discuss a statute that could lead to serious consequences if a person is not careful who they associate with.

Per O.C.G.A. § 16-2-20, “every person concerned in the commission of a crime is a party thereto and may be charged with and convicted of commission of the crime.” This statute goes further to explain that a person is “concerned” in committing a crime only if they directly commit the crime or if they intentionally aid or abet in the commission of a crime or if they intentionally advise, encourage, hire, counsel, or procure another to commit the crime. In explaining party to a crime to my clients I use this example. Imagine that three people, A, B and C, are sitting around A’s house talking about robbing a bank. Following this discussion, B and C get into B’s car and drive to the local bank. At the bank, C gets out of the car, walks into the bank, points a gun at the teller and takes money. As he is leaving the bank, C fires a shot and kills a customer in the bank. C then gets back into B’s car and B drives them back to A’s house. Upon arrival at the house, A, B and C split the money from the bank robbery. Under this scenario, A never left the house. However, A can face charges for armed robber and murder even though she never entered the bank or fired a shot. Pursuant to the statute, she aided and abetted in the crime. Additionally, she encouraged the commission of the crime. B faces the same predicament. Although B never got out of the car, he faces armed robbery and murder charges based off the actions of C.

The above example demonstrates that the Georgia Legislature wanted to ensure that all persons responsible for criminal acts are brought to justice. Therefore, people must be aware of who they are associating with. Being in the wrong place, at the wrong time and with the wrong people could cost you your freedom!!

Jeffrey E. Johnston is a local attorney licensed to practice in Georgia. His practice focuses primarily on Criminal Defense and Personal Injury law. His law firm can be reached at (706) 869-8171.