Some parties are great to be a part of; others, not so much. What are we talking about here? Being party to a crime. In Wisconsin, engaging in criminal conduct with others can result in facing charges for the underlying offense.
What if a Person Didn't Directly Commit the Crime?
Wis. Stats. § 939.05 states that a person is a party to a crime if they were concerned with its commission. They could be charged as a principal actor, and this applies regardless of whether or not they directly committed the offense. For instance, say Judith owns a property but is struggling with some debts. She has insurance on her property and if it "accidentally" burns down, she can collect on insurance and pay off her debts.
Judith calls her friend Stanley and tells him that if he sets fire to her property, she'll pay him. One night, Stanley goes into the home and lights a stack of papers on fire, which burns it down.
Now that her property is destroyed, Judith tries to collect on insurance, but an investigation reveals that the fire was started on purpose. In this case, both Judith and Stanley could be charged with and convicted of arson with intent to defraud, which is a Class H felony.
Who's “Concerned” with the Commission of a Crime?
Earlier we mentioned that a party to a crime is a person concerned with its commission. But who exactly is that?
Under Wis. Stats. § 939.05, a person is "concerned" with a crime if they:
- Directly commit it,
- Intentionally help someone commit it, or
- Conspire with someone else to commit it
Additionally, if a person conspires with others to commit an offense, and some other crime occurs while carrying out the acts of the intended offense, the individuals involved in the conspiracy could also be a party to the consequential crime. The only time a person may not be charged as a conspirator is if they changed their mind about participating in the offense and let their co-conspirators know they were backing out.
How Is a Party to a Crime Penalized?
As mentioned earlier, if a person is considered a party to a crime, they may be charged and convicted as a principal. That means they face the same penalties as if they directly committed the offense. Returning to the example with Judith and Stanley, they could face up to 6 years in prison and/or a fine of up to $10,000 – the punishments for Class H felony convictions.
Are you facing criminal charges in Milwaukee? Call the Law Offices of Christopher J. Cherella at (414) 882-8382 or contact us online for the legal defense you need.