People in Interest of N.D.O., 2021 COA 100

The Court of Appeals holds that complicitor liability can support a crime of violence finding.
Several teenagers stole a car and committed armed robberies at four gas stations; N.D.O was alleged to be the gateway driver. The petition charged N.D.O. with four counts of aggravated robbery and alleged that N.D.O. was a violent juvenile offender based on the use of a deadly weapon by the two teenagers who entered the stores and demanded, at gunpoint, that the clerks empty their registers. In a supplemental instruction answering the jury’s question as to whether complicity applied to the question concerning the deadly weapon on the aggravated robbery charge, the court instructed the jury that while complicitor liability applied to a substantive offense, the theory of complicity did not apply to the deadly weapon interrogatories.

The jury found N.D.O. guilty on all counts but found that he did not use, or possess and threaten the use of, a deadly weapon to commit any offense. The trial court adjudicated N.D.O. delinquent and sentenced him to 2 years of probation. The prosecution appealed the court’s decision to instruct the jury that complicity did not apply to deadly weapon interrogatories.

The Court holds that complicity theory can support a crime of violence finding in a juvenile court context, explaining that once a juvenile is found complicit, the juvenile is “on equal footing with the principal regarding the circumstances accompanying the commission of the offense, including those making the offense a crime of violence.” The Court, however, concludes that in this case, the general verdicts do not necessarily show that the jury found the use of a deadly weapon, and therefore do not establish that N.D.O. was adjudicated delinquent for a criminal act that could have constituted a crime of violence. Based on this analysis, the Court of Appeals holds that the juvenile court did not impose an illegal sentence.

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