Let us assume you get in the car with your friend to go smoke marijuana with an old friend, John. Unbeknownst to you, your friend has a hidden agenda – to go beat up John! You get in the car, go to John’s house and your friend immediately starts beating him up. Uh oh. You’re in a tough spot. But if you don’t participate or help in any way, you may have the defense of independent act. An independent act occurs when a person other than you commits or attempts to commit a crime which:
Your non-presence does not, in and of itself, establish that the crime was an independent act. You can still be held liable based on principal theory for the criminal activity of another even if you are not there when it occurs! See my page in principal theory for more on that issue.
But if the jury finds that the crime was an independent act, they should find you not guilty of it.