Negative acquiescence is not enough to constitute a person guilty of aiding and abetting the commission of a crime. Consequently, courts look for affirmative conduct either in the form of acts or words from which reasonable inferences of a common design or purpose to effect the commission of a crime might be drawn.
Defendant, his wife, their two infant children, and a friend were riding in a car. Defendant was driving and his wife and one child were riding in the front seat. Defendant's friend and the other child were riding in the back seat. Defendant stopped to pick up a hitchhiker. While the hitchhiker was riding in the back seat, defendant's friend pulled a knife and took the hitchhiker's wallet and watch. Defendant said nothing the entire time and continued driving. Defendant was later charged and convicted of being an accessory before the fact of robbery by "placing in fear." The trial court denied defendant's motion for a new trial. On appeal, the court reversed.
Can the defendant be held criminally liable as an accessory before the fact, based on mere presence or silent acquiescence?
The court held that there was no evidence that defendant aided and abetted the robbery, and the verdict against appellant was not sustained by substantial evidence.