Aiding and abetting is a serious offense that may attract life-altering penalties for an accused person. Any defendant guilty of involvement in a crime may face the same punishment for aiding and abetting as the main perpetrator. Thus, you want to consult a criminal defense attorney soon after facing aiding and abetting accusations. They will then help you build a strong defense strategy.

At Los Angeles Criminal Attorney, we are ready to handle your criminal matter to help you develop solid defenses against an aiding and abetting accusation. Our role is to conduct in-depth research, help you source evidence and represent you in court as necessary.

Your assigned defense lawyer will also ensure they provide customized services suited to meet your case needs. Doing so increases your chances of persuading the judge or jury of your innocence. Upon consultation, you will receive enough information on how to handle an aiding and abetting case.

What Aiding and Abetting Entails

Helping the main perpetrator commit an offense is unlawful, as it enables them to get away with legal violations. Section 31 of the California Penal Code prohibits any action aimed towards aiding and abetting. The legal provision defines the offense as facilitating, aiding, or encouraging another person to commit a crime.

Under the law, anyone engaged in aiding and abetting is as guilty as the main perpetrator of the offense. So, you want to understand what amounts to aiding and abetting. In doing so, you can determine if the prosecutor’s accusations need defense arguments or if their case is likely to fail.

You should note that aiding and abetting can occur at different times, meaning that you may face guilt even if you learned of the offense. This pointer is significant for parties who decide to aid and abet the crime because it makes them immediate accomplices.

For example, helping move stolen items  that the perpetrators have come from committing theft makes you an accomplice. Thus, making a rushed judgment call may cost you your liberty if the prosecutor shows your involvement as an accomplice.

Examples of Aiding and Abetting

Many forms of aiding and abetting vary depending on the type of main offense in question. Thus, the investigation officers working on your case can present many actions linked to your participation in aiding and abetting.

Even so, some actions are more common during prosecution than others because they form the basis for most criminal offenses. Thus, understanding what law enforcement officers classify as aiding and abetting can guide you when preparing your defenses. Based on this, you can better establish whether you are answerable for the charge.

Examples of actions classified as aiding and abetting are:

Keeping Watch as the Perpetrators Commit an Offense

Acting close to the crime scene to keep watch is a common form of aiding and abetting. Your role would be to ensure the offenders do not raise the alarm and reduce their risk of being caught. As a result, you will likely communicate with them to provide updates or alerts when needed.

Your involvement as a lookout party plays a significant role in determining whether the offense succeeds. This then makes you an integral part of the crime.

Many crimes with lookouts will proceed to a conclusion, meaning you will be an interested party in the main suit. So, you should prepare a defense to distance yourself from the crime upon facing a lookout accusation. Defense arguments are crucial in reducing your chances of facing penalties. Thus, you can work on a defense to counter the accusation of keeping watch as the crime occurred.

Obstructing a Witness or Anyone Who May Raise Alarm

Additionally, aiding and abetting can include obstructing a third party likely to raise the alarm on the criminal activities. Obstruction may occur in several ways, among them being the false imprisonment of the third party in question.

For example, you may lock the person in a room until the crime concludes, meaning you will have obstructed them from seeking help or calling the authorities.

Obstruction may also occur by restraining the parties until the perpetrators conclude their crimes. Thus, investigation officers recollect the facts surrounding the offense to ensure they can link you to being an aid. You may also face an accusation under this category for deflecting a third party, meaning that you ensured they were not close to the crime scene.

Keeping a Car Engine Running

Crimes like theft, robbery, and carjacking often involve a fast-paced series of actions. Thus, most perpetrators will need one party to remain in their getaway vehicle and keep the engine running, ready to take off. They do this to cut their chances of arrest or recognition in case a third party identifies them.

Hence, aiding wrongdoers by keeping a car engine running in readiness to flee the scene attracts aiding and abetting charges. The prosecution's main argument would be that your participation ensured that law enforcement officers did not apprehend them if there was a chance.

Driving the Getaway Vehicle

If you drove the vehicle used to flee a crime scene, you are also answerable for aiding and abetting charges. Your involvement causes a direct impact on the aggrieved parties because, in most cases, they will be unable to catch up with you. Additionally, law enforcement officers have a challenging time catching up with you. Hence, you are likely to impede the fulfillment of justice.

You should remember that every offense involves different forms of aiding and abetting. Thus, the prosecutor may choose a different approach to show you involved yourself in committing the offense. Despite this, they should show the existence of a direct link between your aiding and abetting and the main crime in question.

Your criminal defense attorney plays a significant role in ensuring you identify any shortcomings in the prosecutor’s case to help you determine the possible defenses to include. You want to consult your lawyer for more guidance.

Elements Prompting the Prosecutor to Charge You

The prosecutor cannot file a charge against you unless they establish several facts. Establishing your involvement in the offense is critical because you will face the same charges as anyone involved in the crime. Thus, the prosecution team must undertake due diligence to determine that:

You Were Aware of the Main Perpetrator’s Intention to Commit a Crime

Knowing the potential onset of crime is a significant factor influencing the prosecutor’s decision to charge you. In court, the prosecution team focuses on proving that you were familiar with the main perpetrators’ intention to violate the law and did not take any initiative to report or stop their intentions.

For example, the prosecutor may prove your involvement by showing that you were present during meetings to plan how to commit the crime. They can rely on recordings, video footage, and witness testimonies that link you with the perpetrators.

Additionally, circumstantial evidence can help solidify the prosecutor’s case, depending on your actions. For example, frequenting a location associated with the perpetrators can be enough to establish that you knew the main offender’s intention to commit the crime.

You Helped, Encouraged, or Facilitated the Criminal Actions

Moreover, you can also face charges for helping, encouraging, or facilitating offenders towards committing the crime. In this case, assisting means lending yourself to their actions to promote the achievement of their goals. For example, offering to carry items for them counts as helping, provided it marked off an action they needed to do.

Encouraging the offenders may entail giving them support as they present their ideas. In some cases, you may also involve yourself in giving them new approaches or facts that encourage them to proceed with the offense by reducing their worries.

Facilitation can also take on various forms, including through financial means. For example, sending the offenders money to ease their approach to committing a crime amounts to facilitation because you have given them easy access to what they need.

Alternatively, facilitation can involve active participation, including sending third parties to help the perpetrators in their actions. For example, involving yourself in the logistics of the crime setup means you have facilitated the offense.

You Promoted or Helped to Develop the Unlawful Plan

Lastly, the prosecutor may charge you with an offense for promoting or helping develop an unlawful plan. The charge will stand even if you did not participate in actualizing it because your input will have facilitated its development.

Thus, the prosecutor must show that you helped or contributed to developing a crime-related plan. Notably, it is not mandatory for the perpetrators to have utilized your plan fully, provided the prosecutor can show your intention to promote the crime.

Upon retrieving the relevant evidence, the prosecutor will then work on demonstrating that your plan helped promote the offense in question. The effect may be direct or indirect, depending on the case circumstances. Hence, you can engage your criminal attorney to ensure you establish the strength of the prosecutor’s case.

What the Prosecutor Considers in Establishing Your Role as an Accomplice

The accomplice theory applies in charging you for the offense you are accused of aiding and abetting. Subsequently, the prosecutor should prove that you fit the accomplice role by satisfying various elements. Without this step, the case may evoke questions of a fair trial, contrary to your constitutional rights.

The main elements for the prosecutor to establish in framing you as an accomplice are:

Whether You Played a Companionship Role With the Main Perpetrators

Firstly, the prosecution team should determine whether you were acquainted with the main perpetrators before or during the commission of the crime. Doing so is important because it helps demonstrate your participation in planning, encouraging, or helping the offenders.

For example, the prosecutor can liaise with the investigation officers to obtain information about your whereabouts before or during the commission of an offense. In doing so, they will determine whether you were familiar with the offenders, making you likely to help them commit the offense.

A companionship role often manifests by your ability and intention to help the main offenders. For example, they may have assigned your duties to fulfill and required you to report back to them. If witnesses can testify to this effect, they will form part of the prosecutor’s case.

Whether You Were Present at the Crime Scene

Alternatively, the prosecutor may rely on establishing whether you were present at the crime scene to determine if you are a valid accomplice to the offense. Your presence indicates your involvement, meaning the prosecutor may have an easier time presenting your case if they can retrieve evidence to frame you at the scene in question.

Therefore, you can expect the prosecution team to partner with the investigation officers working on your case to source the necessary information. For example, they may retrieve surveillance footage near the accident scene. Audio clips from the crime scene may also be accessible, forming part of the evidential sources.

Additionally, the prosecutor will contact any witnesses who may have been present at the scene to testify against you. Their primary role is to ensure they depict your appearance and participation if they capture any information. Doing this gives the prosecutor a better chance of succeeding in their case.

Noteworthy, you do not need to be at the crime scene for the prosecutor’s case to succeed. Sometimes, the court considers circumstances that show your remote but active participation. For example, if you actively coordinate calls to aid the offenders, you face the same charges and scrutiny as if you were at the crime scene.

Whether You Participated Before or After the Main Offense in Question

Lastly, the prosecutor should demonstrate whether you involved yourself in the occurrences before or after the crime was committed. Doing so can create a distinction between aiding or abetting and other offenses like receiving stolen goods. Thus, the prosecutor’s goal is to demonstrate that the accomplice principle was evident in your actions.

While you are likely to avert charges for participating after the crime was done, you will be answerable for any subsequent crimes committed by the offenders. This is likely to occur where the perpetrators are simultaneously involved in a series of offenses. For example, committing theft and carjacking may occur several times, so your involvement in subsequent instances makes you guilty.

The Effects of Having a Legal Duty on Aiding and Abetting Accusations

An issue arises on whether you should report wrongdoing if you know that a crime is about to occur. For now, no formal law criminalizes you for failure to act against perpetrators upon learning of their unlawful intentions.

However, a special group of people may face legal repercussions for failing to act based on their legal obligations to promote overall well-being. For example, doctors, teachers, lawyers, and police officers may face aiding and abetting charges if they were aware of a potential offense but took no steps toward reporting or preventing it.

Defenses for Aiding and Abetting Accusations

After the prosecutor presents their grounds for charging you with a crime that you allegedly aided, you can raise defenses to counter it. Your criminal attorney will be instrumental in helping you prepare the defenses ahead of the defense hearing.

Although they take the lead in developing the arguments, your contributions are welcome. Thus, do not hesitate to provide input that may provide valuable information for your case. Further, you can request a breakdown of the defense arguments before the defense hearing to help you track your attorney’s presentation.

Some defenses applicable for aiding and abetting are:

You Face False Accusations

Accused persons often face trial for false accusations, making them vulnerable to unfair trial and conviction. Thus, your attorney can approach this defense by providing an alibi or a compelling counterargument to show that you were absent from the crime scene at the time in question.

Presenting compelling evidence will help your case significantly because it solidifies your arguments and builds credibility. Hence, you want to source evidence from various settings to help build your defense.

You Acted in Good Faith

Alternatively, you may have acted in good faith, meaning that you did not know that the parties you helped were offenders who had come from committing a crime. Your defense is acceptable because perpetrators often prey on third parties using false pretenses to solicit assistance. Hence, your defense will be successful if you prove that you did not know the offender’s true intentions.

You Were Not Under a Legal Obligation to Act

As discussed, you are generally not under obligation to act against offenders who intend to commit an offense. Hence, this defense would be sufficient to counter a prosecutor’s imposition that you aided by keeping information about a crime from law enforcement authorities. Before applying the counterargument, you want to ensure you do not fall within any legal or social capacity requiring you to oblige to the legal duty.

You Averted from Aiding and Abetting

You may argue that you changed your mind and avoided aiding or abetting the offenders. The argument can help prevent punishment, but only if you stopped aiding and abetting before the crime concluded. Establishing a clear timeline of the offenders’ actions is therefore essential, and your criminal defense lawyer will help you retrace your steps and point to when you stopped aiding.

Your counterarguments should also include evidence demonstrating your withdrawal from the offenses in question to improve your chances of an acquittal. Thus, consider calling on witnesses or other sources to prove your non-participation.

You Interacted with the Perpetrators After the Crime

Moreover, interacting with the offenders after they complete their criminal activity does not impose criminal liability for aiding and abetting. Therefore, you can argue that you only involved yourself after the crime. However, the prosecutor may still prove that your actions were unlawful because they enabled criminal activity.

Penalties for Aiding and Abetting

Usually, aiding and abetting penalties follow from the main offense you facilitated. As discussed, you will face the same penalties as someone who participated in the crime directly, provided the prosecutor can prove your facilitation, encouragement, or aid.

Further, the sentencing judge should meet themselves that you are answerable for any offenses arising from the success of the initial crime. For example, you may aid an offense of robbery with violence resulting in severe injuries and fatalities. Hence, you also become answerable for the crimes.

The applicable test to establish whether you are guilty of the subsequent offenses is by determining whether the outcomes are natural and probable outcomes of the main crime. For example, victims may suffer grievous bodily harm from a robbery with violence offense that you aided. If so, the crime outcomes are natural and probable. So, you will face more penalties for the natural consequences.

Speaking to your defense attorney about the possible penalties you will face is advisable. They will retrieve the information for you. Moreover, your lawyer can negotiate a deal with the prosecutor to help you receive a more lenient sentence. Despite this, you may still need to undergo a trial to a conclusion, and the judge can elect to apply discretion in the case.

Contact a Criminal Defense Attorney Near Me

When you or a loved one faces aiding and abetting charges, you need legal help to  establish an ideal defense approach. When choosing your attorney, you should set their experience levels in criminal defense and their ability to handle your case . Doing so ensures you partner with a first-rate team, as the potential penalties for aiding and abetting are serious.

You receive quality defense services at Los Angeles Criminal Attorney to help raise a compelling court case. Over the years, we have helped hundreds of clients present their cases and increase their chances of a favorable case outcome. Thus, you can trust us to provide quality legal help to promote your interests. Additionally, our team is available for further consultation and guidance surrounding your case. If you need criminal defense services for  aiding and abetting accusations, call us today at 424-333-0943.