Principals AKA Accomplices in Florida Crimes

September 7, 2021 Criminal Defense

When a crime has been committed, the person who is responsible is the one who is charged with that specific crime. However, the state of Florida follows the theory of “all for one, one for all”. This describes the case of the principal, or any person who has helped in the process of the crime committed. In the case of a principal, it becomes a danger to anyone who thinks they have been involved in a crime—whether it be minimal involvement or even no exposure to the actual crime. Grasping a full understanding of principals can help you figure out if you can be charged with a felony, even if you were not the person responsible. This can have detrimental consequences such as fines and jail time. 

If a crime is considered a team sport, the state is more than happy to hand out participation trophies—even to the equipment manager. This makes it highly important when finding out the specifics of a committed crime. Being charged as a principal can apply to any crime under the right circumstances. If you or a loved one has been charged as a principal in a felony crime, it is vital that you reach out to an experienced attorney. Receiving accurate advice can help create a defense to your case. This page will provide useful information on principals so you can decide if you need to contact an experienced Tallahassee Defense Attorney

What is a Principal? 

What is more commonly referred to as an “accomplice” is defined as a principal in the State of Florida. Common examples of a principal include: 

  • A Lookout – If someone is breaking and entering a home and you are the person on lookout, both would be charged and prosecuted for residential burglary.
  • A Getaway Driver – If someone is robbing a bank and you are the person in the getaway vehicle, both would be charged and prosecuted for a felony robbery.
  • Manslaughter – If parents knowingly allow their children to serve alcohol to other minors in their home, they are responsible for any foreseeable consequences and prosecuted as such.

The Fla. Statute 777.011 defines a principal as someone who has helped another person or persons commit or attempt to commit a crime. In such cases the defendant who is charged as a principal must be treated as if he or she had been the one to commit the crime. This becomes a very serious offense, and one that should not be taken lightly. The terms under which a person would be charged as a principal is as follows: 

  1. The defendant had a conscious intent that the criminal offense would be acted out and, 
  2. The defendant did some act or said specific word(s) which incited, caused, encouraged, assisted, or advised the main person responsible and who committed or attempted to commit the criminal act.

A principal is a person who commits a crime offense against the state—whether a felony or misdemeanor—or aids, abets, counsels, hires, or otherwise procures such offense to be committed. If such an offense is committed or is attempted to be committed, then it is a principal in the first degree. One of the key aspects to highlight in a principal charge is that a principal may be charged, convicted, and punished as such, whether he or she is not actually or constructively present at the time and place of the crime. So, if someone merely encourages someone else to act out a criminal offense, they are too charged with that crime.

Principals – Active Participants 

There are certain cases where the principal has been actively involved with the criminal act. For example, when the defendant has been hired by someone else to commit a crime. If the defendant has paid or promised another person or persons to commit, or attempt to commit a crime, the defendant is a considered a principal. The defendant is then treated as if they were the one who had committed the crime. Any criminal acts the hired person had committed or attempted to commit will also fall onto the person who paid or promised them money to do so. The terms under which the defendant would be charged the same as the person hired to commit a crime(s): 

  1. The defendant had a conscious intent that the criminal act was to be done; 
  2. The defendant promised or made a payment in an exchanged agreement for the promise or commission to commit a crime or to help commit a crime and; 
  3. The crime—or attempted crime—was committed by the other person. 

Again, it is important to note that the defendant does not have to be physically present at the scene of the crime or attempted crime to be charged as a principal. 

Different Variations of Principal Charges

In addition to being considered a principal, the Fla. Statute 777 defines the different variations of accessory, attempt, solicitation, and conspiracy:

Accessory After the Fact 

Any person who is not in standing relation to the offender who assists the principal or an accessory before the fact or gives any other type of aid when they are aware that the offender had committed a crime, with the intention of offering an escape or avoiding detection, arrest, trial, or punishment is considered an accessory after the fact. To prove that the defendant is an accessory after the fact, the principal must be convicted of a felony by the State Attorney, and that after the felony was committed the suspect assisted or gave aid to the principal while knowing they had committed a crime.  

Attempts, Solicitation, and Conspiracy

A person who attempts to commit a crime and does an act towards the commission but fails in perpetration or is intercepted before the execution has committed criminal attempt. A person who solicits another person to commit a crime by commanding, encouraging, hiring, or requesting another person to engage in specific conduct which constitutes as a crime is considered criminal solicitation. A person who agrees, conspires, combines, or confederates with another person or persons to commit a crime will be charged with  criminal conspiracy.


When a law enforcement officer improperly encourages a person to commit a crime that they would not have committed under normal circumstances, it is considered entrapment. It is important to note that entrapment does not apply to a person who was already willing to commit a crime individually and independently of the received encouragement.

Tallahassee Criminal Defense Attorney

Florida law regards principal and accessory theories as tools for prosecution. Whether the crime involves drug trafficking, theft, or murder, you can face severe punishments if you are charged as a principal. If you think that only participating in the minor role of a crime, or the planning of a crime, will not land you in hot water, you could be wrong and face serious legal implications. If the defendant helps another person commit a crime in any way, he or she could potentially be charged with penalties just as harsh as if they had been the main perpetrator. Conscious intent of the crime that has been committed is enough lead to harsher legal repercussions for the defendant. If you or a loved one has been charged as a principal or accomplice of a crime, it is vital that you get in contact with an experienced Tallahassee Defense Attorney. To ensure you are not pinned as liable for a crime and face the same charges as the main perpetrator, receiving the help of an attorney who is ready to fight in your corner is of utmost importance. In some cases, a skilled attorney can work to convince the prosecuting attorney to decline to prosecute you. Don Pumphrey and his team are prepared to stand up and protect your rights in the case of a principal charge. Call (850) 681-7777 today and schedule your free consultation.

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