What does Aiding and Abetting mean?

Aiding and abetting means to intentionally help someone else carry out a crime. Further, it provides that a person can break this law even if he did not commit the crime himself. Above all, if the judge or jury finds the person guilty of aiding and abetting, then that person will face the same punishment as the person who actually did the crime.

Notably, aiding and abetting is a hidden feature in most federal-criminal laws. Not only does it treat the main criminal and his most casual helper alike, it is also implied in the charging document. This allows the prosecutor to use this theory at trial even when they did not state it in the indictment.

The major reason for this is that aiding and abetting is not a separate crime. It is an alternate charge in every indictment. This gives the government a second way to convict a person. In other words, a person is guilty because he either committed the crime himself, or he acted with criminal intent to help someone else break the law.

Finally, to see how this crime works, we first need to define it. This definition will give us context. And it will provide us with examples on how aiding and abetting works. In addition, it will show us how to raise possible defenses to this crime.

What are the elements of aiding and abetting?

The elements of a crime are the set of fact the government must prove in a case. If the government can prove these set of facts at trial, then a person is guilty of a crime.

Further, to convict a person of aiding and abetting, the government must show the following facts beyond a reasonable doubt:

  1. Someone committed a crime;
  2. The person shared the criminal intent of the main actor(s) in the crime;
  3. The person purposefully participated in the crime; and
  4. Finally, the person, by his actions, sought to make the crime successful.

These elements are the legal definition for aiding and abetting. Strikingly, a person does not need to commit every element of the underlying crime. He only has to aid and abet each element.

What are examples of aiding and abetting?

  1. Drug Deals: Helping another person possess and distribute drugs such as meth, coke, or pot;
  2. Wire Fraud: Providing false information to help someone else’s fake real-estate scheme; and
  3. Gun Crimes: Assisting in a drug deal knowing ahead of time that one of the other people will carry a gun. In this type of case, a person will be guilty of aiding and abetting a 924(c) gun crime.

Are there defenses to aiding and abetting?

Yes. There are different ways to defend an aiding and abetting crime. The two most common defenses are mere presence and lack of criminal intent.

Mere Presence:

A person may be present at the scene of a crime. He may even know that someone else is commiting a crime. However, that is not enough to convict a person of aiding and abetting a crime.

Stated another way, there must be evidence to show the person took part in the crime. That he took some action to push the crime forward. Otherwise, being a spectator is not enough to show someone is guilty of this crime.

No Criminal Intent:

In essence, Aiding and Abetting has two parts. First, the person must take an affirmative act to further the crime. Second, the person must act with intent to carry out the crime. If the person does not have criminal intent to break the law, then he is not guilty of aiding and abetting. This is true even if he took steps to push the crime forward.

Furthermore, the person must have a criminal state of mind that extends to the entire crime. It is not enough to intent only one part or element of the crime. For example, a person may intend to help with a drug sale. But if he does not intend to help with an armed-drug sale, then he may not be guilty of a 924(c) gun crime.

For this reason, a person charged with aiding and abetting must carefully look at the facts of the case. In particular, the defense must see if the person had full knowledge of the circumstances surrounding the crime. What did he or she know about the crime before it happened? Did the person know someone else had a gun? The answers to these questions may provide a defense to this crime.

In sum, a person must know the criminal plan ahead of time. This advanced warning gives a person both a legal and moral choice. He can opt out of the crime and walk or away. Or, he can continue with the crime and live with the consequences of his actions. This choice will determine if a person is guilty of this crime or if he walks free.

Speak with a top San Antonio Criminal Defense Attorney about your case.

Aiding and abetting is the government’s Plan B. If they can’t prove a person committed a crime, then they can argue the person helped someone else commit the crime. And this option is powerful. If the government convicts a person of aiding and abetting a crime, then that person will face the same jail time as the people who actually carried out the crime.

However, there are defenses to this crime. For this reason, anyone charged with aiding and abetting a crime should speak with a qualified-defense attorney to review his or her options. That’s because it is not a bad idea to get a second opinion. And this information can help you defend your case. And best of all, the case reviews are always free.

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