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    Renunciation in Philadelphia Criminal Felony Murder Cases, a Defense to Conspiracy

    As discussed in previous blogs, conspiracy is a common charge in Philadelphia criminal defense cases.  In order to be guilty of conspiracy, the person has to agree to commit the underlying crime or the person has to agree to aid in the commission of the crime.  Also, there must have been an act to further the crime.  Conspirators do not have to be the ones that actually commit the actual crime to be charged for the same crime.   In other words, if one of the conspirators shoots someone during the commission of a felony crime and is convicted of felony murder, the other conspirators who did not shoot the victim may also be convicted of felony murder.

    One of the defenses to conspiracy crime is renunciation, which is when a defendant takes action to renounce the conspiracy.  By doing so, he may not be guilty of conspiracy even if the defendant did take an overt act to further the underlying crime.

    Pennsylvania Statutes Title 18 Section 903 defines renunciation as the following:

    (f)  Renunciation.–It is a defense that the actor, after conspiring to commit a crime, thwarted the success of the conspiracy, under circumstances manifesting a complete and voluntary renunciation of his criminal intent.

    Philadelphia Conspiracy to Commit Robbery and Felony Murder Hypothetical

    Consider the following example: Three individuals (A, B and C) decide to rob a bank. According to the plan, A and B would go inside to get the money from the tellers, and C would stay outside in a car as a look out. A and B are in charge of getting guns, and C is in charge of getting a fake license plate to put on the getaway car the day of the robbery.

    A few days before they are supposed to rob the bank, C changes his mind.  He does not want to be a part of the robbery and tells A and B.  They then ask C to give them the fake license plate he got.  C refuses and tells them to get another one themselves.

    A and B go through with the robbery and a teller is wounded as a result of the robbery.  A and B are arrested and charged with conspiracy to rob a bank, aggravated assault and other related charges.  C is also arrested after A and B are questioned and charged with the same crimes.

    In such a case, C may have a renunciation defense. Even though he took an act to further the crime, i.e., getting a fake license plate, he later changed his mind and abandoned the plan.  He told the others and refused to give them the license plate he got.

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