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I was wondering what laws, if any, restrict donating money to criminals who have committed crimes which you support and want to encourage (lets assume the motivations are not necessarily so explicitly stated).

Musings: On the one hand this seems basically the same as paying someone to commit a crime. But on the other hand, accused criminals get donated money all the time to fight the ensuing court battle. Which seems like something that is clearly legal.

This is in response to the recent flurry of donations and 100K bail given to the man who assaulted Dylann Roof. And was just wondering how exactly the law applies to such unique situations.

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  • Are you talking about support after a crime has been committed? Or support to commit a crime in the future? – Zizouz212 Aug 10 '16 at 0:17
  • Support after a crime has been committed. Not support such as a pace to hide from the law, just a general reward for committing the crime. – Jonathon Aug 10 '16 at 1:10
  • Somewhat related to Son of Sam laws, but not quite the same. – ohwilleke Mar 27 '17 at 20:27
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There is usually a law that could be stretched to cover such a case. In Washington, RCW 9A.28.030 says

A person is guilty of criminal solicitation when, with intent to promote or facilitate the commission of a crime, he or she offers to give or gives money or other thing of value to another to engage in specific conduct which would constitute such crime or which would establish complicity of such other person in its commission or attempted commission had such crime been attempted or committed.

The "intent" of the law is to punish people for saying "I'll give you $5000 to kill Smith". But just looking at the text, if you give someone money to encourage them to engage in a specific kind of criminal conduct (e.g. beating people up), then you've violated the law. So, handing a guy $5,000 and saying "I think you should be rewarded for your act" could easily be construed as promoting the future commission of the same or similar crime.

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I would like to point out that I am not a lawyer nor is this legal advice.

In the United States anyone on trial is presumed innocent until proven guilty. It is not a crime to help an innocent person navigate the legal field. Paying someone's legal fees is not illegal.

I do not believe a general promise to pay any legal fees is illegal. There are business which make similar promises (insurance companies) although they typically cover civil cases not criminal cases.

You start running into trouble when you start paying someone for committing a crime. If you're paying someone's legal fees that is fine, but generally paying someone for committing a crime is not legal. This may be seen as accessory or other similar offenses.

Now keep in mind that gifting people money is not illegal. It is perfectly fine for me to gift someone $50,000 out of the kindness of my heart.

Generally the difference between the two cases is before and after the fact. If you pay someone and then a crime is committed you are in hot water. If you give them a gift (and not pay them for committing a crime) or pay their legal fees it should be fine.

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