Attorney explaining the law of parties to client.

What Is the “Law of Parties?”

If you were ever punished along with your sibling for something that they did when you were with them, then you already have a slight understanding of the Texas “law of parties.” The law of parties allows for one individual to be held criminally liable for actions committed by others. 

Under Texas Penal Code §7.01, everyone who participates in a crime is considered to be a party and each person is therefore criminally responsible for the offense committed. There are various situations in which you may be considered criminally responsible for the behavior of others. These situations include:

  • Causing or helping an innocent person to engage in criminal activity
  • Purposely encouraging, assisting in the commission of, or failing to attempt to reasonable stop the occurrence of a crime that you have a legal duty to prevent
  • Intentionally helping, directing, encouraging, promoting, or soliciting another to commit a crime or to also do the same

Similar to the Law of Parties, another law in Texas is the felony murder law. The felony murder law says that if you have conspired with others to commit a felony, you may be held responsible for any other felony that he or she commits during the commission of the originally planned felony. 

For example, if you decide to commit a robbery of a store while armed with a gun, if your co-conspirator shoots and kills the clerk, you can also be held responsible for murder even if that was not a part of your plan. It is very important to understand that in Texas, the felony murder law also applies to capital offenses. So in the same situation, if your co-conspirator shoots and kills the store clerk, you can face first-degree murder charges and even the death penalty. 

Being Present vs. Being Complicit

There is a difference however in simply being at the scene that a crime is committed but having no knowledge of it. For instance, if you go into the same store with a friend but have no idea that he is planning to rob the store and shoot the clerk with a gun he has hidden, it would be difficult to prove that you had any involvement with helping, directing, encouraging, promoting, or soliciting the crime. But what would be the outcome in the same situation if you saw the gun and your friend tells you that he is going to rob the store but you do nothing out of fear. Are you then considered to be complicit? 

Deciding these issues is done on an individual case-by-case basis and demonstrates the importance of having a knowledgeable and experienced criminal defense attorney. You do not have the burden of proving your innocence; the prosecution has the burden of proving your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. 

It is important to understand that under Texas law there are certain crimes that people have an affirmative duty to report if they have born witness to it. Such offenses generally include situations in which the witness owes a special duty to the victim. In cases of suspected child abuse or neglect, adults have a legal duty to report the offense to Child Protective Services. 

Ceja Law Firm PLLC Can Help

If you or a loved one has been charged with a crime in Texas, how you handle it can have a major impact on the rest of your life and can greatly affect you and your family. That is why it is so important to find a knowledgeable and experienced criminal defense attorney who understands the intricacies of the law. At Ceja Law Firm PLLC we work with our clients to help make a bad situation better. To learn more or to schedule a free consultation, contact us today!