Can I get charged with theft if I didn’t take anything but unknowingly drove the ‘getaway car’?

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Can I get charged with theft if I didn’t take anything but unknowingly drove the ‘getaway car’?

My friend and I were wanting to get some beer.
We are both of age and we were both willing to
pay for it. When we got to the gas station, I
waited in the car while he went inside to pay for
the beer. I was out of view and did not see a
single thing that happened inside the gas
station. We live in Salt Lake City, Utah and I
guess the law is you can’t buy alcohol after
100 am. Now it was around 230 am so my
friend decided to run out with beer after not
paying for it. He got in my car and I drove
away, not knowing that it had been stolen. Now
I am getting contacted by police saying I can
get charged for this misdemeanor theft if I don’t
turn my friend in. Can they really charge me or
just trying to get me to rat him out? Please help
as I don’t want to have to do either of those
things. Thanks in advance.

Asked on January 13, 2017 under Criminal Law, Utah

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 4 years ago | Contributor

Legally, to be convicted, they'd have be able to show "beyond a reasonable doubt" (a high standard of evidence or proof) that you knew that your friend has or likely had stolen and therefore were knowingly participating in the crime. That is possible, if the facts would suggest to a reasonable person that your friend had done something wrong--for example, if he "ran" out, or said "let's go" the second he got in the car or anything else that would suggest he needed to get away fast. 
More, the standard of proof to initially charge you is much lower than the standard to convict, and it is reasonably likely they can at least show it is likely enough that you knew or should have known that charges can be brought against you--then you'll have to defend yourself in court (and have a chance of losing; there's always a chance of losing) even if you believe they have a weak case. So there certainly is risk her for you.


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