Criminal Law

Criminal Law Defenses - Abandonment & Withdrawal

There are many defenses to criminal charges. One of those defenses is known as abandonment and withdrawal. This defense is also referred to as "renunciation." When successfully asserted, the defense will prove a defendant's innocence. A defendant won't be guilty of a crime or found to be an accomplice to a crime if:

  • The defendant ends his participation prior to the commission of the crime; and
  • The defendant's actions up to the point of ending his involvement in no way contributed to the crime; or
  • The defendant notifies the police in time to allow the police to make a proper effort to prevent the crime from taking place.

Factors Affecting the Defense

When a defendant's conduct would otherwise be a criminal offense, it is an affirmative defense that he abandoned his effort to commit the crime or to prevent it from taking place. Abandonment of the crime must be made under circumstances that show a complete and voluntary withdrawal of the defendant's criminal purpose. If more than one person was involved, abandonment by one of them won't affect the criminal liability of those who didn't join in the abandonment.

The abandonment of the criminal purpose must be voluntary. In other words, the abandonment must not be made merely because the defendant thinks he will get caught or because it has become more difficult to accomplish the crime. The circumstances that give rise to the increased chance of being caught or the increase in difficulty must not have been apparent at the start of the defendant's criminal course of conduct.

Solicitation and Conspiracy

Solicitation is a crime in which a defendant, by offering something of value, persuades another to commit a crime. The defense of abandonment and withdrawal can apply to a charge of solicitation. A defendant won't be guilty of soliciting another to commit a crime when he persuades the solicited person not to commit the crime or otherwise prevents the crime. Again, the circumstances must show a complete and voluntary abandonment of the defendant's criminal purpose. The same applies to conspiracy. A defendant might not be guilty of conspiracy if, after conspiring to commit a crime, he prevents the success of the conspiracy under circumstances showing a complete and voluntary abandonment of the criminal purpose.

Successfully Asserting the Defense

The laws on abandonment and withdrawal vary from state to state, but there is a common thread. The defendant must not only show an abandonment of criminal purpose, he also must show a valid attempt to prevent the commission of the crime by others.

Questions for Your Attorney

    • What if I couldn't prevent the crime out of fear for my safety or life?
    • What if I called the police, but they didn't arrive in time to prevent the crime?
    • What if I made a valid attempt to prevent the crime, but was unsuccessful?

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