Criminal Law, Pages 539โ€“542

State v. V.T.

Court of Appeals of Utah, 2000

Facts:

V.T. and two friends spent the night at a relative's house and left the next morning, taking two of her guns and her camcorder. She found the boys and demanded the items' return. They refused, so she called the police. The police found the camcorder at a pawn shop, and it still had a video on it that the boys recorded, showing victim.T.'s friends discussing pawning the camcorder, although victim.T. did not talk. The three were eventually arrested, and defendant gave the police a phony name.

Procedural History:

Defendant was convicted of three counts of theft under an accomplice theory, as well as one count of giving false information to a peace officer. It justified liability on the camcorder theft because victim.T. had been with his friends since it was stolen and did not distance himself from them.

Issue:

Can defendant be convicted as an accomplice just because he was present with his friends while they committed the crime?

Prosecution's Argument:

V.T.'s presence during the theft and phone call coupled with his friendship with the other two is enough to infer that he encouraged them in committing the theft.

Rule:

LexisNexis IconWestLaw LogoGoogle Scholar LogoPage 540
Utah Code Ann. ยง 76-2-202

Every person, acting with the mental state required for the commission of an offense who directly commits the offense, who solicits, requests, commands, encourages, or intentionally aids another person to engage in conduct which constitutes an offense shall be criminally liable as a party for such conduct.

Rule/Holding:

Encouragement requires some form of active behavior. Just being present cannot be enough to qualify as encouragement.

Judgment:

Reversed.