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What is vicarious liability?

Here’s a piece of advice many of us got from our mothers: Be careful who you hang out with because the mistakes they make may end up being yours. In law, we call this vicarious liability. It’s really how a person can get into trouble with the law by associating with someone else’s doing wrong.

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Transcription of: What is vicarious liability?

Here’s a piece of advice many of us got from our mothers: Be careful who you hang out with because the mistakes they make may end up being yours. In law, we call this vicarious liability. It’s really how a person can get into trouble with the law by associating with someone else’s doing wrong.

We talk about three legal concepts here: conspiracy, aiding and abetting, and acting in concert.

Conspiracy is nothing more than an agreement between two people to commit some other crime. Usually each person has to do some small act that furthers it, but it can be the agreement alone under some circumstances. You have a person who’s agreed to drive someone else to a drug buy or loan them the car for that purpose. Both people are involved in a conspiracy. Both people are responsible for that drug buy.

Acting in concert and aiding and abetting are actually two very similar concepts. The idea here is that if two or more people come together and their actions combine to complete some crime, then both people are responsible not only for the completed crime, but any other crimes that take place while that’s happening.

Here’s the thing about all three of these concepts. A person who is just barely involved in it is going to be held just as responsible for the other person who quite frankly did virtually all the things wrong.

A teenager who decides he’s going to rob a carwash for his prom money recruits a friend to just wait around the corner and drive him away from the robbery. Both of them are guilty of the robbery itself. Both of them are guilty of a conspiracy to commit robbery. If that friend who went in to rob the carwash for his prom money shoots somebody, both of them are guilty of murder as well, even though that guy sat around the corner in the car.

The department store employee who decides to make some extra money on the side by doing fake refunds across the cash register. The friend they recruit to just come in and pose as a customer, they’re guilty of embezzling from that store, just like the clerk is guilty of embezzling from that store.

A sister lets her brother buy a car in her name with his illegal money, his drug money, the money he got by doing a fraud. She’s guilty of money laundering, that’s a separate crime, but she may also be guilty of the underlying illegal activity where he earned the money in the first place.

So, yeah, choose your friends wisely. Listen to them when they start talking about doing something stupid and stay away from it because the mistakes that they make may become yours and your convictions.

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Your privacy is important to us. The use of the Internet or this form for communication with the firm or any individual member of the firm does not establish an attorney-client relationship. Confidential or time-sensitive information should not be sent through this form.