Wrong Place, Wrong Time
Sometimes a person can just be in the wrong place at the wrong time. For example, a person is a passanger in a vehicle that is stopped by police. The car is searched and drugs are found. All parties are charged with the possession of the drugs.
This is what the law says about just being there: Mere presence or acquiescence, without participation, does not constitute a crime. A defendant’s presence at the scene of a crime and knowledge that a crime is being committed is not alone sufficient to establish the defendant’s guilt.
A defendant’s association with conspirators or persons involved in a criminal enterprise is not by itself sufficient to prove his/her participation or membership in a conspiracy or criminal enterprise.If a defendant performed acts that advanced a criminal activity but had no knowledge that a crime was being committed or was about to be committed, those acts alone are not sufficient to establish the defendant’s guilt.
However, you have to watch this: only slight participation is needed to change a person's status from a mere spectator into an aider and abettor. ). "Aiding and abetting in a crime requires the State to show the accused procured it to be done, or aids, assists, abets, advises or [933 P.2d 911] encourages the commission of the crime." Hindman v. State, 647 P.2d 456, 458 (Okl.Cr.1982).
Here is a good example of one who escaped punishment:
U.S. v. Briseno-Mendez
1998 10CIR 841153 F.3d 728, Decided: 07/17/1998 - 10th Circuit Court of Appeals
"In the instant case, however, the evidence showed more than Briseno-Mendez's mere presence in the vehicle. Briseno-Mendez accompanied Silva and Castaneda on a 800-mile trip from Bell to El Paso. The three defendants stayed in El Paso only one night before beginning the return trip to Bell. Agents found no toiletries in the car which would be consistent with a pleasure trip and defendants did not see any sights during their stay in El Paso, despite Castaneda's and Silva's claim that they just wanted to see what El Paso was like. The Bondo covering the trap door to the compartment where the cocaine was found was still fresh, indicating that the cocaine had been in the vehicle only a day or two, a time period which coincides with defendants' three-day trip."
If the government could have proven that Briseno-Mendez in any way helped or aided the others in procureing the cocaine he would have been convicted right along with them.