Under the California aiding and abetting laws, someone who encourages, facilitates, or aids in the carrying out of a crime can be assigned criminal liability. Those who are charged with aiding and abetting face the same penalties as those who directly commit the crime.
In order to be charged as an aider and abettor prosecutors must prove the following.
You knew the perpetrator’s illegal plan,
You intentionally encouraged and/or facilitated that plan, and
You aided, instigated, or promoted the crime.
Penalties for Aiding and Abetting
Since aiding and abetting isn’t actually the crime you’re charged with, the penalties can vary greatly depending on the crime committed.
There are some cases where the aider and abettor can be charged with a crime while the person who actually committed the crime receives lesser charges. For example, in a murder case, the person who is responsible for the murder of another person may claim that it was self-defense, while the aider and abettor had the intent to kill.
Legal Defenses for Aiding and Abetting
There are quite a few legal defenses that can be used for these charges. Here are some of the most common ones.
You did not encourage, facilitate or aid the crime’s commission.
If you did not encourage, facilitate or aid in any way with the crime then you cannot be guilty. While these elements can be misunderstood, the bottom line is you have to have intentionally engaged in one of these acts.
You were falsely accused.
There doesn’t need to be any physical proof for aiding and abetting so false accusations are very common. This would most likely happen if someone was trying to remove blame from themselves and put it onto someone else.
You withdrew from participation in the criminal activity.
If you withdrew from participation before the undertaking of the crime by either notifying the people involved that you were withdrawing from the crime or doing everything in your power to prevent the crime from going forward then you can fight the aiding and abetting charges.
You had no duty to act.
Even if you knew that a crime was going to take place and did nothing to prevent it, you are not guilty as an aider and abettor unless you had a legal duty to act. These legal duties have to be given to you by law, so they do not come into play very often.
You only facilitated the crime after its commission.
You can’t be an aider and abettor if you only helped facilitate the crime after it was over. You could be an accessory after the fact which is treated as obstructors of justice.