Aiding and abetting occurs when a person encourages, aids, or assists another person or persons in the commission of a crime. An example of this is where a person helps to break into a building while another person steals some items from inside the property.
In most cases, a person who is found liable for aiding and abetting will face the same criminal consequences as the person that actually committed the crime in question.
What Are Some Defenses to Aiding and Abetting?
Depending on the facts of the case, there may be various defenses for a person who is faced with aiding and abetting allegations. These may include:
- Withdrawal: A person can avoid liability by withdrawing their intent to assist or aid in the crime. They must communicate this clearly to the other persons involved in the crime, and they must also do what they reasonably can in order to prevent the crime from happening.
- Did not actually assist: If the person did not actually assist, encourage, or aid another person, the court might determine that they were “merely present” at the crime scene (i.e., if the person was merely a bystander).
- Duress: It may be a defense if the person was forced to aid in the crime under a threat of harm.
- Accessory after the fact: Some laws may reduce liability if the person assisted in the crime after it took place. The court might deem the person as an accessory rather than aiding and abetting. While they might not completely avoid liability, they may have their sentence reduced by a number of years, such as 3 years instead of 9.
As mentioned, the availability of each defense will depend on what actually happened in relation to the crime committed. Also, state laws may have slightly different variations when it comes to criminal defenses.
Are There Any Other Legal Issues to Consider?
In rare cases, it can happen that a person who is aiding and abetting can end up facing greater legal penalties than the person that actually committed the crime. This is because the person aiding and abetting simply needs to have the intent that crime be committed to completion.
For instance, the driver in a drive-by shooting might face charges for attempted murder. However, the gunman might actually face lesser charges if they were shot at first and were acting in self-defense. Again, these types of situations are rare but they are possible under many state laws.
Do I Need a Lawyer for Help with Aiding and Abetting Laws?
Aiding and abetting laws can often prescribe very strict penalties for those associated with a crime. You may need to hire a criminal lawyer in your area if you need help with any criminal matters. A lawyer can help represent you in court if you need to make an appearance. Also, your attorney will be able to research the laws on aiding and abetting to determine what your rights may be in your particular situation.