(In honor of the annual shit show known as the bar exam, I’m posting some legal basics for the lay person in each of the major areas tested on the bar. This is all just what we call “black letter law,” as in simplified and pretty set concepts, and, as always, is not to be taken as legal advice.)
1. (In Tennessee, different states have different rules but usually along these lines) For you to be convicted of a crime, there has to be an actual, established crime that you were charged with that has set elements, AND the prosecutor has to prove all elements of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt (except the jurisdiction). The elements are the facts that had to have happened to make it that crime. Meaning the prosecutor has to prove those facts happened.
2. You can not be charged in the state for the same crime twice once “jeopardy attaches” (like if the trial has started but it gets more complicated). But you can be charged with more than one crime for the same act if they are considered different crimes. They are different crimes if each crime has at least one element the other crime does not. This is like committing robbery and conspiracy to commit robbery. In the first, you don’t have to plan with other people to do it. In the second, you don’t have to actually commit the act. Therefore, you can be convicted for both.
3. If you’re an accomplice to a crime (meaning you aid, advise, or encourage with the intent to make the crime they are charging you with happen) then you are on the hook for all other foreseeable crimes your accomplices commit. Yeah, no robbing banks with a new crew. Because that’s just stupid.
4. Most states (Tennessee included) have The Castle Doctrine. The idea that if someone breaks into your home while you’re there, you get to assume they’re there to hurt you and you get to defend your “castle” with deadly force. No this is not meant to encourage you to lure people you don’t like to your home so you can take them out and claim castle. There’s always a trail between people who know each other, just remember that.
Okay, rereading the above, I feel like I’m giving people ideas. So legal disclaimer, non of this is meant to encourage, advise, facilitate or solicit illegal acts 😉