State v. Hoselton

371 S.E.2d 366 (W.V. 1988).

Convicted of entering without breaking a vessel, with the intent to commit larceny.


Was he an accomplice?


A lookout is someone who is prearranged to keep watch so as to avoid detection. A lookout can be subject to the crime charged.


Was not a lookout.


The defendant was with a group of boys who jumped onto a ship and was trying to get into a storage container. The defendant had stood outside and did not know that the boys intended to steal from within the container. Once he walked around the corner and saw that his companions were handling goods, he went to the car and waited for them to finish up. Once they did, they returned and then drove the defendant home.


He does not fit the definition of a lookout. He is missing the requisite mens rea and therefore cannot be convicted of the crime.

Additional Notes

An accomplice is a person who associates themselves with the activity and can therefore share the criminal intent. To prove that someone is an accomplice, there must be the mens rea and the actus reus.

  1. Actus Reus – Give assistance or encouragement or failed to perform legal duty to prevent the crime
  2. Mens Rea – Dual intent. Intent to aid, and intent to commit the crime.

Mens Rea


People v. Lauria

Cal. Rptr. 628 (Ct. App. 1967).

There is a large debate about whether the required mens rea should be purposeful or knowing. The MPC says that the mens rea should be purposeful.

When Intent is not Required

Riley v. State

60 P.3d 204 (Alaska 2002).

Convicted of first-degree assault.


Can he be convicted without the requisite mens rea for an accomplice?


Convictions affirmed.


The defendant and his parter were on a hill and shot into a crowd of socializing individuals. Their actions seriously injured two people.


The defendant argues that you need to purposeful be an accomplice. However, the court disagrees because then the principle crime committer could have a lower mens rea (for reckless crimes) and the accomplice would need to have a higher mens rea. This is counterintuitive, therefore, you need to be intentional to the conduct, but meet the statute requirements for the result.

Additional Notes

The takeaway from this case is that you need to act purposeful to the conduct and then follow what the law says as to the mens rea required for that result.

State v. Linscott

520 A.2d 1067 (Maine 1987).


The defendant and others attempted to rob a drug dealer in his home. After the defendant broke through the window, one of his companions shot the drug dealer, killing him. The defendant did not know that the companion would shoot the drug dealer, nor did he want him to shoot the drug dealer. He believed that all the weapons they brought were simply to deter the drug dealer from retrieving his weapon and engaging.

Actus Reus

State v. V.T.

5 P.3d 1234 (Utah Ct. App. 2000).

Convicted of theft.


Whether there was sufficient evidence for him to be guilty


Not guilty.


The youth and his friends had stolen several guns and a camcorder from a relative. The camcorder was later discovered at the pawn shop which revealed (on the tape) that the boys had discussed pawning the camcorder. However, the defendant did not provide a comment regarding these statements.


Here, there is no indication that he is providing any aid, assistance, or encouragement. Although he may have been there to commit the crime, the evidence is lacking. Simply being present is not enough.

Additional Notes

Passive behavior is not enough to obtain a conviction. Instead you need to be present + have an affirmative action (unless a there is a duty to act). This is rule 1.

People v. Genoa

470 N.W.2d 447 (Mich. Ct. App. 1991).

Attempted to possess cocaine with the intent to deliver. His charges were dismissed.


Not guilty


He wasn’t guilty because there was actually no harm done.

United States v. Lopez

If the principle is justified in their defense, then the accomplice cannot be guilty. However, if the principle is excused in their defense, then the accomplice can be guilty. The reason for this is because a justification is a good thing, something to be encouraged. Instead, an excuse still includes a wrongful action and the accomplice can still be guilty for those actions.

This is rule number 3.


The content contained in this article may contain inaccuracies and is not intended to reflect the opinions, views, beliefs, or practices of any academic professor or publication. Instead, this content is a reflection on the author’s understanding of the law and legal practices.

Categories: 1L Fall, Criminal Law

Will Laursen

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