Aiding and Abetting Meaning
Aiding and abetting is like taking the phrase “partner in crime” literally. This is because aiding and abetting is similar to being a partner in a crime, or a “party to a crime,” as California statutes define it. Many people falsely believe that aiding and abetting isn’t as serious as committing the crime itself, but contrary to popular belief, a person could be guilty of a crime whether they did it themselves or aided and abetted the perpetrator.
Elements of Aiding and Abetting
Aiding refers to helping someone commit a crime while abetting is encouraging, helping, or inducing someone to commit a crime. Both of these acts are illegal. The elements of aiding and abetting include:
- Assisting the person who directly commits the crime
- Being ready and willing to assist the person who directly commits the crime, and such person is knowledgeable about the willingness to assist
With this in mind, an example of aiding and abetting is helping a perpetrator commit an offense like burglary. Let’s say you caught your partner cheating on you, and to get revenge, your friend urges you to break into your partner’s house and steal their favorite (and expensive) diamond watch. Your friend even offers to help you pick the locks at your partner’s home and supply gloves and other items needed to commit the burglary.
As a result, your friend could be charged with aiding and abetting in addition to burglary. On the other hand, you would not face aiding and abetting charges but rather burglary and other applicable charges.
What Is a Principal to a Crime?
In California, aiding and abetting are elements of being a party to a crime. Party to a crime is a criminal offense that involves two roles: Principals and accessories. You may be accused of being a principal to a crime under the following circumstances:
- You are concerned in the commission of a felony or misdemeanor crime, whether or not you directly commit the crime
- You aid and abet the commission of a crime
- You advise and encourage the commission of the crime while absent from the scene
- You counsel, advise, or encourage a child under 14 or a mentally incapacitated person to commit a crime
- By fraud, contrivance, or force, you get someone drunk to cause them to commit a crime
- By threats, menaces, command, or coercion, you compel another to commit a crime
What Makes You an Accessory to a Crime?
Although it seems less serious than being a principal, an accessory to a crime may face up to 1 year in jail and/or $5,000 fines if they harbor, conceal, or aid a principal after a felony has been committed with the intent to help the principal escape arrest, trial, conviction, or punishment. The accessory must have knowledge that the principal committed a felony or was charged or convicted of a felony.
Defenses to Party to a Crime Charges
Depending on your parties to a crime charges, the following defenses may work in your favor:
- You lacked intent
- You were only present at the scene as a bystander or spectator
- You did not aid or abet the commission of the crime
- You were falsely accused
- You were misidentified
- The police lacked probable cause to arrest you
- You withdrew from participating in the criminal activity
If you are facing party to a crime accusations in Santa Barbara, our attorneys can help. As former prosecutors with 40+ combined years of experience, we know what is needed to give you the upper hand in your case. Contact us at (805) 467-6060 to get started!