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Aiding and Abetting a Criminal

The legal term “aiding and abetting” applies to any instance in which a person helps a criminal, be it during the planning stages, carrying out the crime, or giving him or her refuge from police.

While the punishments for various aspects of a crime might vary, the law sees very little difference in accountability between committing a crime oneself and knowingly helping a criminal before, during, or after the act in question.

Principal versus Accomplice

When looking at a person charged with aiding and abetting, the first distinction that needs to be made is that between a principal and accomplice. In the event of a robbery, the person who commits the act him or herself would be the principal, but if anyone secured access to a gun, left a door to an employer’s office unlocked, or otherwise prepared the principal for action, he or she is guilty of being an accomplice. This might also include being a getaway driver or lookout.

An accomplice might be hit with a conspiracy charge as well depending on the degree of his or her active involvement and planning, even if the crime itself was never actually carried out.


Some jurisdictions further distinguish between an accomplice and an accessory, with the latter helping in some way but generally not being present at the time of the crime. Sometimes, all that an accessory has to do in order to be guilty is to know about the crime beforehand and fail to report it to authorities. An accessory “after the fact” would be someone who knowingly harbors a criminal or otherwise helps him or her evade capture.

Contact Us

Charges of aiding and abetting can have massive, often unexpected consequences. If you have been accused of being an accomplice or accessory, contact the experienced team of criminal defense attorneys at the Law Office of Daniel Jensen, P.C. today by calling (408) 296-4100.

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