Aiding and abetting, or accessory, charges can be brought against any person who assisted in the commission of a crime. There are significant differences in the application of this law between states. However, in almost all cases, someone who is guilty of aiding and abetting does not actually have to be present during the crime. Rather, they must have knowledge of the crime before or after it took place, and they may provide assistance in terms of financial support, actions or advice. In severe cases, the charge may rise to conspiracy.
Aiding and Abetting Laws
Aiding and abetting is covered under penal code 18 U.S.C. 2. It requires for there to be an ‘accessory’ and a ‘principal’. The principal is the primarily responsible person, who is generally the one who perpetrated the actual crime. The accessory is the person who aided and abetted, meaning the one who provided some element of help in the background.
Aiding and Abetting Crimes & Charges
In order for an aiding and abetting charge to stand up in court, three requirements must be met:
- A person other than the one charged with aiding and abetting committed the crime.
- The defendant must have helped that person in order to have the crime commissioned.
- The defendant must have been aware of the fact that criminal plans or criminal intent was in place.
Accidentally assisting in a crime is not a punishable offense and is not classed as aiding and abetting.
Aiding and abetting can happen at any point, being before, during, or after the crime itself. An ‘accessory before the fact’ is someone who knows there is intent to commit a crime and then provides assistance. An ‘accessory after the fact’ is someone who provides assistance after a crime has been committed. Often, a person can be both.
It is difficult to determine what does and does not constitute ‘assistance’. Usually, it involves things such as driving a getaway car, being a lookout, or providing financial support, supplies or advice. Depending on how much involvement the defendant had in planning the crime itself, that person may be charged with conspiracy.
Aiding and Abetting Punishment
In the majority of states, those who are classed as an accessory will face a less harsh punishment than the principal. However, their level of guilt is equal, as they did intend the crime to take place. Each state has different punishments in place for aiding and abetting.
It is also possible that a principal would be found not guilty of an offense, while the accessory is found guilty. Some states, including California, also have ‘abandonment or withdrawal’ in place. This means that if a person informed the principal and all other parties that he or she no longer wanted to participate, and engaged in actions to stop the crime from happening, that person would be found not guilty.
It is important to note that aiding and abetting suicide is covered under the Suicide Act 1961 s.2 and carries a maximum prison term of 14 years.
Aiding and Abetting Sentencing Guidelines
Sentencing varies depending on a number of different factors. The type of crime someone aided and abetted in is an important factor, including the level of involvement and how many individual actions of accessory that person engaged in. Criminal history and criminal livelihood of the defendant also play a part. Lastly, an important factor is whether the crime in which the defendant aided and abetted resulted in any form of bodily harm. In some states, ‘accessory after the fact’ is a separate crime from aiding and abetting and will result in different sentencing guidelines.
As a guideline, the sentencing for someone convicted of aiding and abetting can be the same as that for the actual crime itself.
Aiding and Abetting Statute of Limitations
The statute of limitations for aiding and abetting varies depending on the crime that was committed in which they were an accessory. As such, there are no set statutes in place, with them varying from two years to never. It is also important to remember that the statute of limitations can be put on hold if the perpetrator was out of the country or out of state.
Aiding and Abetting Cases
There have been many aiding and abetting cases, as well as a range of situations in which aiding and abetting is suggested. Additionally, the crime is now becoming more commonly recognized on international levels as well. Some notable aiding and abetting cases include:
- Bail set for 3 officers charged with aiding and abetting in George Floyd case. (Foxnews)
- Radovan Karadzic, who was president of Serbia during the Balkan Wars of the 1990s, was assisted by General Krstic for genocide. Karadzic recived a 40 year sentence for this, and General Krstic received 35 years in prison for his role in crimes against humanity, genocide, and war crimes. (UConn Today)
- In the case of Wichansky vs. Zowine, Marc A. Wichansky was president of Zoel Holding Co. Inc. and he alleged that Zowine breached fiduciary duty because he was aware of fraud taking place within the company. When Wichansky wanted to bring this to light, Zowine assaulted and battered him. A number of other defendants were found guilty of aiding and abetting Zowine in his breach of fiduciary duty. They were ordered to pay punitive and compensatory damages. (Lawyers And Settlements)
- The Noor 1 cargo ship was used in the transportation of some 2 tons of heroin into Greece. A number of people have been prosecuted with drug trafficking offences, while 11 other members of the crew have been charged with aiding and abetting the criminal organization behind the trafficking ring. (Ekathimerini)
- Four former NOPD police officers had been convicted of shooting six people, leaving two dead, at Danziger Bridge. They were convicted of a number of different offences, including aiding and abetting in deprivation of civil rights. Following a plea deal, the four former officers have had their sentences reduced. (4WWL)
- Muhammed Salah was once charged with aiding and abetting the terrorist organization Hamas, but he was acquitted and became known as the man who unified Muslims. (Chicago Tribune)
Aiding and Abetting Quick Links & References
- Criminal Law – 401 Aiding and Abetting: Intended Crimes
- Aiding, Abetting, and the Like: An Overview of 18 U.S.C. 2
- 2010 Federal Sentencing Guidelines Manual
Aiding and Abetting Laws by State
Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Wyoming