Think twice before helping another person commit a crime. You could be considered an accomplice and face criminal charges for aiding and abetting. Even though you may have only played a small role, you’ll be held fully accountable for the criminal offense you aided. As a result, you’ll face the same penalties as the person who actually committed the crime.
If you are facing criminal charges for aiding and abetting in San Diego it’s important to speak with an experienced criminal defense attorney. At the Law Office of Vikas Bajaj, our attorneys have more than 19 years of experience handling complex criminal matters. We know that your future is on the line and will do everything we can to protect it. Call our San Diego aiding and abetting defense lawyers to schedule a free consultation today.
Criminal Liability for Aiding and Abetting a Crime – Penal Code 31 PC
In California, the state can file criminal charges against anyone who is “concerned in the commission of a crime,” whether directly or indirectly. Under the state’s aiding and abetting law, anyone who contributes to a crime will be considered a principal offender. A principal is defined as someone who is “primarily responsible for a criminal offense.”
Aiding and abetting is not a separate crime in California. Instead, the law explains that anyone who aids and abets can be treated the same way as the person who actually commits the crime. So, if you help another person commit a robbery, you’ll face the penalties for the crime of robbery.
Elements of Aiding and Abetting
You can face criminal charges for aiding and abetting if you act, aid, promote, encourage, or instigate a crime. When you are accused of being an accomplice, the state must prove that you are guilty of each element of the offense. The state must show:
- You knew the perpetrator planned to commit a crime;
- You intentionally facilitated, encouraged, or instigated the crime; and
- Your actions contributed to the commission of the crime.
Knowledge of the Criminal Plan
In order to aid and abet a crime, you must have known that the perpetrator planned to commit an unlawful act. You cannot be convicted under Penal Code 31 PC for aiding and abetting if you did not have advance knowledge of the criminal intent. Whether or not you had knowledge can often be ascertained by interviewing witnesses and reviewing communication between you and the perpetrator.
Intentionally Facilitated the Criminal Plan
Your contributions to the crime must have been provided intentionally and willingly. You cannot be considered to have aided and abetted a crime if your actions were the result of force, coercion, fraud, or manipulation. You must have shared the perpetrator’s intent to further the criminal act.
Contributed to the Criminal Offense
The state must also prove that you actually acted, aided, promoted, encouraged, or instigated a crime. This is determined by considering the totality of the circumstances and analyzing your role in the criminal offense. Factors that may be important in determining if you aided and abetted include:
- Your relationship with the perpetrator
- Your behavior before, during, and after the crime, and
- Whether or not you were present at the scene of the crime.
It’s important to note that you don’t actually have to be present at the scene of the crime to aid and abet. Giving assistance before the crime or helping in some way that does not require your presence can still qualify as aiding and abetting under state law.
Examples of aiding and abetting can include:
- Driving a getaway car
- Providing information or tools that help the perpetrator commit the crime
- Helping the perpetrator plan the crime
- Providing money necessary to commit the crime
- Providing a false alibi, and
- Acting as a lookout.
Any behavior that encourages, facilitates, or aids a crime can make you an accomplice who is criminally liable for that offense.
Penalties for Aiding and Abetting
Aiding and abetting isn’t actually its own criminal offense. Instead, anyone who commits a crime, whether directly or indirectly, or who aids and abets a crime, can be held responsible. Anyone who helps with a crime can face the consequences for that specific offense.
Example #1: You willingly provide blueprints for a building to a friend who wants to commit a burglary. Since you aided the crime, you can face the penalties for burglary.
Example #2: You acted as the getaway driver for a friend after a kidnapping. Since you helped them commit the crime, you can face the penalties for kidnapping.
Example #3: You helped to create a diversion in a store so that the perpetrator could steal several expensive items. Since you facilitated the crime, you can face the penalties for theft.
In addition to facing jail time, fines, and other penalties, you will also be burdened with a criminal record. Having a criminal record can affect every aspect of your life for years to come. Consequences of a criminal record for aiding and abetting may include:
- Loss of a professional license
- Prohibition on working in certain fields (e.g., healthcare, education, government)
- Difficulty finding a place to live
- Loss of government benefits
- Negative social stigma
- Loss of gun ownership rights
- Loss of voting rights, and more.
The more serious the underlying crime, the more serious the penalties you can face.
Defending Aiding and Abetting Charges in San Diego
Just because the state has accused you of aiding and abetting a crime does not mean that you will be convicted. The state has the burden of proving that you are guilty of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt. You also have the right to aggressively defend yourself against these allegations. The best thing you can do is hire an attorney to lead your defense.
At the Law Office of Vikas Bajaj, we will assert any argument that may help your defense or undermine the state’s case against you. Defenses that can be used in aiding and abetting cases include:
- Lack of knowledge
- Lack of intent and purpose
- Aid provided because of force, duress, fraud, or manipulation
- No helpful aid was actually provided
- Mistaken identify
- False allegations, and
- Evidence obtained in violation of your rights.
Call our San Diego criminal defense lawyers to find out how we can help you fight aiding and abetting charges today.
San Diego Aiding and Abetting Defense Lawyers
Have you been accused of helping another person commit a crime? Are you facing criminal charges for aiding and abetting that crime? Contact our San Diego aiding and abetting defense lawyers for immediate legal assistance. We will carefully review your case, determine the best strategy for a defense, and fight to protect your future. Call today to learn more.