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Consider a situation in which a group of four people drive to a bank and then three of them go into the bank to rob it, and while those three are inside the bank robbing it, the driver has a sudden change of heart so he/she decides to drive off.

Say also that as this person is driving down the road away from the bank, he/she decides to call the police with their smart phone and he/she reports that there is a bank robbery in progress. The police thank the driver for reporting this crime and the call is ended.

If a getaway driver drives away while a bank robbery is in progress, will he/she still be arrested as a participant in this crime?

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  • I’m just thinking now that this getaway driver better hope that he/she is not sent to the same prison with the other three bank robbers. Doh!
    – user57467
    Mar 25 at 10:49
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    Rather than asking "will they still be arrested?" its better to ask "have they committed a crime?". Committing a crime is a matter of law, which we can answer. Whether they get arrested is a matter of police procedure and prosecutorial decision making, which we can't answer. Mar 25 at 13:52
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    It is worth noting that if someone was killed in the robbery that the faithless getaway driver would probably also be eligible for a felony-murder charge which can justify the death penalty in many states.
    – ohwilleke
    Mar 25 at 20:48

2 Answers 2

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As described, the driver's conduct is probably criminal complicity. Under the Revised Code of Washington, 9A.08.020:

(3) A person is an accomplice of another person in the commission of a crime if:

(a) With knowledge that it will promote or facilitate the commission of the crime, he or she:

(ii) Aids or agrees to aid such other person in planning or committing it

By offering their aid in driving the crew to the bank, and agreeing to be their getaway driver (notwithstanding that they didn't actually follow through), they are guilty of the bank robbery itself.

There is a defense in abandoning the crime:

(5) [A] person is not an accomplice in a crime committed by another person if:

(b) He or she terminates his or her complicity prior to the commission of the crime, and either gives timely warning to the law enforcement authorities or otherwise makes a good faith effort to prevent the commission of the crime.

However, it seems unlikely that this defense would succeed. The driver did not make an effort to prevent the commission of the crime, nor is there much chance that their warning to law enforcement would prevent the crime. (It might prevent the robbers' escape, but that's not the same thing.)

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  • It seems that warning to the police only has to be "timely," and does not have to actually prevent the crime?
    – Someone
    Mar 23 at 18:07
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    @Someone "or otherwise" seems to lump the "timely warning" into the category of "good faith effort to prevent the crime". That is, a warning is one way in which you might try to prevent the commission of the crime and thereby avoid complicity. Taken that way, a warning made during the commission of the crime clearly does not qualify, but a warning that makes a good-faith effort but fails to prevent the crime for some other reason (e.g., police are too busy) would.
    – Cadence
    Mar 23 at 18:20
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Party liability

Driving the group to the bank with the common intention to carry out the bank robbery, or with the intention of aiding the three in carrying out the bank robbery, is enough to make the driver liable as a party to the offence.

Abandonment

There is a defence of abandonment, but this requires several things (R. v. Gauthier, 2013 SCC 32 at para 50):

(1) that there was an intention to abandon or withdraw from the unlawful purpose;

(2) that there was timely communication of this abandonment or withdrawal from the person in question to those who wished to continue;

(3) that the communication served unequivocal notice upon those who wished to continue; and

(4) that the accused took, in a manner proportional to his or her participation in the commission of the planned offence, reasonable steps in the circumstances either to neutralize or otherwise cancel out the effects of his or her participation or to prevent the commission of the offence.

Application

In the circumstance you've described, it is unlikely that element (4) of the defence is made out: a significant portion of the driver's participation (driving them to the robbery) is largely undoable by this point.

Once the arrow is in the air, it is no use wishing to have never let it go — “Please God, let it miss!”

Elements (2) and (3) also seem to be missing: there was also no communication or notice to those who wanted to continue with the offence.

Arrest and charge

We cannot predict how the police or prosecution will decide to arrest or charge in the circumstances.

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