What is the “Law of Parties” Under Texas Criminal Law?

The “law of parties” permits one individual to be held criminally liable for the actions of others. Tex. Pen. Code § 7.01 designates all participants to a crime as “parties” and thus makes them all criminally responsible for the commission of the offense.

What is the Law of Parties Under Texas Criminal Law?

Under Tex. Pen. Code §7.02, there are several different situations in which you may be criminally responsible for the criminal behavior of others. These situations include those in which you:

  • Cause or help an innocent person to engage in criminal activity,
  • Intentionally promote, help, encourage, direct, or solicit others to commit a crime, or attempt to do the same, or
  • Have a legal duty to prevent a crime from occurring and you purposely promote it, assist in committing it, or fail to make any reasonable efforts to stop it from occurring

Another related provision under Texas law is the felony murder rule. If you have conspired with others to commit a felony offense, then you may be criminally responsible for any other felony offense that one of your co-conspirators commits, if it was one that you reasonably should have anticipated. For instance, if you and a friend decide to commit an armed robbery of a gas station so that you can steal all the money from the cash register and safe, you should reasonably anticipate that someone could end up shot. If that person dies or suffers severe injuries, you can face additional felony charges for that death or injury, even if it was your co-conspirator and not you that pulled the trigger. In the state of Texas, the felony murder even applies to capital offenses. This means that if you are committing an armed robbery with a co-conspirator, and the co-conspirator intentionally shoots and kills another patron in the store, then you could face first-degree murder charges and the death penalty.

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