What Happens if I Help a Criminal?
At its most basic level, aiding and abetting is a criminal offense in which a person helps another in the commission of a crime. The legal system prohibits aiding and abetting in order to deter criminal activity. Many criminals would be unable to successfully commit their crimes without some kind of outside help.
A person who aids and abets a criminal is known as an accomplice. To be convicted of aiding and abetting, an individual had to be aware that he was assisting the perpetrator. A person who accidentally helped or had no knowledge that he was helping cannot be charged with this crime.
Types of Aiding and Abetting
A wide variety of actions fall into the category of aiding and abetting. An accomplice can support a criminal in any of the following ways:
- Hiding contraband items
- Serving as a lookout
- Harboring a criminal in one’s home
- Lying to law enforcement officers on behalf of the perpetrator
- Equipping a criminal with the necessary supplies to carry out a crime
- Providing the perpetrator with information that will advance the crime
If an accomplice is present at the scene of the crime or serves as the “get away” driver, prosecutors may see the accomplice as a conspirator or a person who agrees to commit a specific crime with another individual. A conspirator may face harsher penalties than an accomplice and may even be accused of the same crime as the principal perpetrator.
Someone who helps a perpetrator avoid arrest may be charged with accessory after the fact instead of aiding and abetting. On the same token, a person who helps the perpetrator before the crime has been committed may be charged with accessory before the fact.
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Possible Punishments for a Conviction
In many cases, a person who is convicted of aiding and abetting faces the same consequences as the actual criminal. Periodically, accomplices bear lesser penalties if they cooperate with law enforcement officers or testify against the principal perpetrator.
The actual punishments can include time in jail or prison, fines, restitution or community supervision.
To learn more about aiding and abetting, contact a criminal defense attorney at Madrid Law with a quick phone call to 713-877-9400.