Alice and Bob accost Carol as she gets out of her car and steal it. In the process, Carol is struck and injured.

The police find and arrest Alice, but Bob evades capture.

If Alice is charged with assault (in addition to grand theft), can she defend herself by saying (essentially), " I helped steal the car, but I didn't hit the woman. Bob did."?

Or is that claim irrelevant?

This happens in the state of Maryland.

  • A bit more detail may be required... Does Carol say whether it was a man or woman who hit her? And does Alice have a (provable) history of violence?
    – user35069
    Jun 2, 2021 at 17:32
  • I don't think it matters. I'm not asking if Alice is likely to be convicted or not. I'm asking if her claim is a valid defense. But if you need answers, Carol isn't sure, and Alice ahs no record.
    – Ron Trunk
    Jun 2, 2021 at 17:36
  • If there is evidence that Alice hit Carol, her statement obviously doesn't help. If there is no evidence who hit Carol but it must have been Alice or Bob or both, as Rock Ape said a history of violence might be enough. Now I know that in the USA, if either Alice or Bob killed Carol, they would both go down for murder. So I suspect Alice may have responsibility for an assault committed by Bob as well.
    – gnasher729
    Jun 2, 2021 at 17:36
  • Thanks for the clarity +1. In E&W (my jurisdiction) is does matter and as MD is also a common law state I thought it might be relevant there too.
    – user35069
    Jun 2, 2021 at 17:51
  • 1
    @RonTrunk: As I discussed in my answer, Alice's response is not a valid defense as she fails to understand the legal definition of the charges against her. She's actually shooting herself in the foot by claiming this because in effect, she's admitting to assault.
    – hszmv
    Jun 2, 2021 at 17:51

2 Answers 2


Claim is irrelevant. Specific to Maryland Law, Assault occurs when one makes or attempts to make physical contact with another OR intentionally frightens another. Alice saying she helped to steal the car and your definition of the theft as "accosted Carol" implies one of the three forms of Assault took place. Alice just admitted to commiting the crime she thought was wrongly charged to her.

The crime she was trying to get out of is called "Assault and Battery" which is where Assault leads to actual injury or physical harm to the victim OR attempts to actually injure or harm another OR puts them in fear of such action.

In Maryland Law, the Battery portion almost always is paired with assault while in other states, it might be possible to commit Battery without Assault (though in these states, normally a separate assault charge to Battery is usually added.).

As a helpful tip, the two words general break down as follows:

Assault: The act of threatening harm or making unwanted non-injurious contact with another person.

Battery: Causing Injurious Harm to another person.

In Maryland, Alice was rightly charged with assault. Upon capture, Bob will recieve an "Assault and Battery" charge for hitting Carol with the stolen card and may get an addition simple Assault charge for the threats before he drove away.

  • The "battery without assault" seems possible if you punch someone in the face without giving them the slightest indication that it would happen, so they would never be in fear of being attacked. I somehow doubt it makes much difference in sentencing.
    – gnasher729
    Jun 2, 2021 at 17:57
  • @gnasher729: In MD at least, it's either "Assault" or "Assault and Battery". Battery is not a separate crime in MD. In other states, "Assault" and "Battery" are seperate crimes, but often combined. Still in others the difference is "second degree assault" vs "1st Degree assault". The name may change but the distinction that simple assault need not concern physical contact still remains. In fact, pointing a gun at someone without once firing it is "Assault with a Deadly Weapon" since you need not hurt someone to assault them.
    – hszmv
    Jun 2, 2021 at 18:27

Alice is an accomplice, although Maryland criminal procedure seems to use the term "accessory before the fact" and not accomplice, apparently eliminating the "was present" distinction. As such, she can be charged as a principal. In particular,

the distinction between an accessory before the fact and a principal is abrogated; and an accessory before the fact may be charged, tried, convicted, and sentenced as a principal.

Here is the section on assault. The "defenses" subsection simply says that "A person charged with a crime under § 3-202, § 3-203, § 3-204, or § 3-205 of this subtitle may assert any judicially recognized defense": it is not a judicially recognised defense that "I wasn't the one who punched her".

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .