New York follows the principle of law known as "acting in concert." This allows a person with a minor role such as a lookout to be charged and punished as if they were the main actor of the crime. Our law defines the circumstances under which one person may be criminally liable for the conduct of another as follows: When one person engages in conduct which constitutes an offense, another is criminally liable for such conduct when, acting with the state of mind required for the commission of that offense, he or she solicits, requests, commands, importunes, or intentionally aids such person to engage in such conduct.
This definition requires the prosecutor prove both of the following elements beyond a reasonable doubt:
(1) That the defendant solicited, requested, commanded, importuned, or intentionally aided that person [or persons] to engage in that conduct, and (2) That he/she did so with the state of mind required for the
commission of the offense.
Understand that under this law, mere presence (even while the crime is taking place) is not enough to constitute criminal liability as an accessory; however, presence while acting as a lookout would be intentionally aiding a person in committing a robbery and would be equally liable under the law.
How much time someone faces depends on what degree of Robbery is charged: Third Degree Robbery is a maximum of seven years jail, Second Degree Robbery is a maximum of fifteen years jail and First Degree Robbery is a maximum of twenty-five years jail. In my experience, having been a prosecutor for many years, the District Attorney often differentiates between the major and minor role players who committed a crime and are willing to punish them differently. Given that it is a first offense, there may be the possibility for probation or diversion program. Other factors the DA will consider are the age of the offender, whether weapons were used during the robbery, any injuries that occurred during the robbery, the value of the property taken, any drug addictions of the offender, any cooperation by the offender, the strength or weakness of the proof in their evidence, etc.
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