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What Is The Difference Between Aiding, Abetting, And Being An Accessory To A Crime?

Nov 25, 2023 | Criminal

If you were recently charged with aiding, abetting, or being an accomplice to a crime, you may be feeling confused and frightened over what this means for your immediate and eventual future. Charges of this nature can bring an onslaught of severe consequences to your life, so it is crucial that you seek skilled legal representation as soon as possible to have the best chance at getting charges reduced or dropped.

The goal of this blog is to shed light on the nuances of these charges, their penalties, and the possible defenses that can be used against them. With a better understanding of the legal landscape, you will be able to effectively navigate the situation in which you find yourself.

Legal Definitions Of Aiding A Crime, Abetting A Crime, And Being An Accessory To A Crime

When a crime takes place in Arizona, law enforcement and prosecutors are usually focused on identifying the suspects who committed the act (principal offender), but they will also expand their investigation if they believe other individuals aided or abetted the crime and pursue charges against them. This individual may be charged with aiding the crime, abetting the crime, or being an accessory to the crime, depending on their level of involvement.

Generally speaking, aiding a crime means that an individual assisted, supported, or helped another commit a crime, and abetting a crime means that an individual encouraged another to commit the crime. On the other hand, serving as an accessory typically means that an individual took action to protect the suspect after the crime was committed.

In order for a court to find an individual guilty of aiding or abetting a crime, prosecutors would need to prove that

(1) a crime was committed,

(2) the defendant intentionally aided, counseled, commanded, induced, or procured the person committing the time,

(3) the defendant acted with the resolve to aid the crime, and

(4) the defendant acted before the crime was concluded.

Moreover, in order for a court to find an individual guilty of serving as an accessory before or after the fact, prosecutors would need to prove that

(1) the defendant knew that a suspect committed a crime, and

(2) they facilitated the suspect with the distinct intent or design to delay or impede that suspect’s apprehension, trial, or punishment.

If the level of involvement in the crime is great enough, a person may even be charged with conspiracy or accomplice. Conspiracy usually reflects a person who has been significantly and directly involved in the planning or the concealment of the crime, while an accomplice aids the perpetrator in carrying out the crime, either before or after it has been committed.

Common Aiding, Abetting, Or Accomplice Scenarios

While there are likely an innumerable amount of scenarios which could result in an individual being charged with aiding, abetting, or serving as an accomplice to a crime, some are more common than others. They include:

  • Getaway driver – a person agrees to serve as the getaway driver for someone after they commit a crime, such as a burglary
  • Lookout or watchman – a person agrees to keep an eye out for law enforcement during the commission of the crime, such as a drug deal or burglary
  • Accessory before the fact – a person provides assistance or encouragement before a crime is committed, such as supplying weapons or helping plan the facilitation
  • Harboring a fugitive – a person agrees to provide shelter, assistance or support to a person known to have committed a crime
  • Concealing evidence – a person assists in hiding or destroying evidence related to a crime
  • False alibi – a person provides a false alibi to law enforcement for someone suspected of committing a crime
  • And more.

Penalties For Aiding, Abetting, And Being An Accessory

In Arizona, individuals found guilty of aiding, abetting, or being an accessory to a crime may face significant legal consequences. Aiding and abetting, where one actively participates in the commission of a crime, can result in charges equivalent to those faced by the principal offender. Penalties may include fines, probation, or imprisonment, depending on the severity of the crime.

Being an accessory, whether before or after the fact, can also lead to serious repercussions. Arizona law recognizes both “before the fact” and “after the fact” accessories, with penalties ranging from fines to incarceration. The severity of penalties depends on factors such as the nature of the crime, the level of involvement, and the specific circumstances surrounding the case.

Possible Defenses For Aiding, Abetting, And Being An Accomplice

A highly-skilled, well-practiced defense attorney can employ a number of strategies to weaken the credibility of the prosecution’s version of how the crime came to be, and cause reasonable doubt in cases of aiding, abetting, and accomplice. Some possibilities include:

No aid or encouragement occurred: you were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time, and there is no evidence that you intended to participate or encouraged the facilitation of a crime

Merely present: you might have had knowledge that a crime was about to be committed, but you had no legal obligation or authority to prevent it from happening

Withdrawal from aid or encouragement: you abandoned the criminal activity, informed the principal offender that you were no longer involved, and did everything possible to stop the crime from happening

False accusation: you were falsely accused by the principal offender in an effort to lessen their own criminal liability

After the commission: you only facilitated the crime after it was committed, therefore are only liable for a lesser penalty as an accessory after the fact

Contact Alatorre Law For Quality Representation Against Charges Of This Nature

If you’ve been charged with aiding, abetting, or serving as an accessory to a crime, it is crucial that you contact our office as soon as possible. Our lead attorney, Javier Alatorre, has nearly 20 years of experience in successfully defending the accused and ensuring that their rights are preserved. He has been named a Top 100 Trial Lawyer, and is fluent in both English and Spanish. Call today to schedule your free consultation and learn more about how he can help you navigate the criminal justice system and achieve a favorable outcome to your case.

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