The recent case of George Floyd has sparked a firestorm around the country with calls for justice being a rallying cry for protestors.
Not long after the incident, the main officer responsible for Floyd’s death was brought up on murder charges. However, three other officers who were on the scene at the time of the death and who also were involved in the incident have now been brought up on charges of aiding and abetting in a murder.
Below, we discuss exactly what the crime of aiding and abetting is and what it means in relation to the murder. Then, we will examine exactly what this could mean if a person in the state of Texas is charged with a similar crime and what the penalty for this crime would be in our state.
What Is Aiding and Abetting In Texas?
The crime of aiding and abetting was created to charge people who were directly involved in participating in criminal activity. An example of people who have been prosecuted under this law include drivers during a robbery who did not commit the actual robbery.
Aiding and abetting means that a person has criminal culpability in an act even if they aren’t the person who has committed the act directly — “party to an offense.”
The Texas Penal Code defines party to an offense as:
“A person is criminally responsible as a party to an offense if the offense is committed by his own conduct, by the conduct of another for which he is criminally responsible, or by both.
(b) Each party to an offense may be charged with the commission of the offense.
(c) All traditional distinctions between accomplices and principals are abolished by this section, and each party to an offense may be charged and convicted without alleging that he acted as a principal or accomplice.”
Criminal responsibility for the conduct of another is defined as:
“A person is criminally responsible for an offense committed by the conduct of another if:
- acting with the kind of culpability required for the offense, he causes or aids an innocent or nonresponsible person to engage in conduct prohibited by the definition of the offense
- acting with intent to promote or assist the commission of the offense, he solicits, encourages, directs, aids, or attempts to aid the other person to commit the offense; or
- having a legal duty to prevent the commission of the offense and acting with intent to promote or assist its commission, he fails to make a reasonable effort to prevent the commission of the offense.”
In the case of the officers responsible for the death of Floyd, they became criminally responsible as they had a legal duty to prevent the crime of murder from happening. By failing to intervene and participating in the incident, they committed the crime of aiding and abetting in a murder.
What Would Happen If This Had Occurred In The State of Texas?
If this incident had taken place in Texas, the officers involved would have been brought up on charges of aiding and abetting and murder. Our state doesn’t have a charge for second-degree murder.
This is defined in the Texas Penal Code like so:
- The defendant intentionally and knowingly caused the death of another person;
- The defendant intended to cause serious bodily injury and committed an act that was clearly dangerous to human life and this act caused the death of an individual; or
- The defendant committed or attempted to commit a felony (other than manslaughter) and in performing that felony, committed an act that was clearly dangerous to human life and this act caused the death of an individual.
Murder in Texas is classified as a first-degree felony. The charge can carry between five and ninety-nine years in federal prison and/or a fine not to exceed $10,000.
About the Author:
Brandon Fulgham has an in-depth understanding of both Texas law and Texans themselves. Before practicing law here, he received his undergraduate degree from TCU, and his law degree from South Texas College of Law in Houston. After graduation, he worked in District Attorneys’ offices as a prosecutor, building cases designed to put people behind bars. Now, he uses that knowledge to protect the rights of people in and around Fort Worth. He has been recognized for his work by Expertise (Best Criminal Defense Lawyers in Forth Worth and Best DUI Lawyers in Fort Worth, both 2020), The National Trial Lawyers, Fort Worth Magazine, and others.