Most of us are aware that it is illegal to aid and abet in the commission of a crime. For example, it is common knowledge that it is against the law to be the getaway car driver after a robbery, to act as the lookout during a mugging, or to help someone plan a kidnapping. What most people don’t know is that under the law in many states, someone who aids and abets a crime can be charged with the same offense as the person who actually carried out the crime.

Aiding and Abetting Laws

Many state laws say that an individual who aids and abets a crime (i.e. encourages, facilitates, aids in, etc.) can be charged with the same criminal offense as the person/people who directly commit the crime. In criminal law this legal principle, sometimes referred to as accomplice liability, is hugely important because it means that the following criminal participants can be charged with the same crime, and face the same penalties, as the perpetrator who actually commits the crime:

•     An Accessory Before the Fact: Someone who helps plan the commissioner of a crime or encourages a crime to be committed. For example, someone who helps plan a kidnapping.

•     An Accomplice: Someone who actively helps commit a crime but who does not take part in committing the actual offense. For example, the getaway driver in a bank robbery is an accomplice.


Generally speaking, an individual who is found to have aided and abetted the commission of a crime will be subject to the same penalties that they would face had they committed the offense themselves. However, there are some limited circumstances under which an aider and abettor to homicide may face even steeper penalties than the individual who actually committed the crime.

Common Defenses

If you have been accused of aiding and abetting a crime, it is vital that your defense strategy is tailored to the facts of your case. However, it should be noted that some commonly asserted legal defenses in aiding and abetting cases include: 

•     Mistaken Identity: I have been mistaken for someone who did aid and abet the crime but I myself was not involved and have fallen victim to a case of mistaken identity.

•     No Participation: I did nothing to aid and abet the commission of the crime and in no way encouraged, facilitated, or aided the commission of the crime at issue.

•     Successful Withdrawal: I did aid and abet the commission of the crime but successfully withdrew my participation and made each of my accomplices fully aware of my withdrawal before the crime was committed.

•     I Was an Accessory After the Fact: I did aid and abet in the commission of the crime but my participation was limited to actions taken after the crime was already committed so, if anything, I should be charged with the lesser crime of being an accessory after the fact.

Reach Out to Us Today for Help

Being accused of aiding and abetting a crime is serious business. Therefore, anyone who finds themselves in such a position should immediately consult with an experienced lawyer, for help in defending against these charges.