Penal Code 31 PC | Aiding and Abetting
Penal Code 31 PC – Aiding and Abetting in California
In California, aiding and abetting a crime is illegal under Penal Code 31 PC. This law makes it a crime to help, encourage, or facilitate someone else in committing a crime. Even if you don’t directly participate in the criminal act itself, you can still be charged as an accessory under PC 31.
Let’s take a closer look at the law on aiding and abetting in California and what it means for those accused of assisting with a crime. We’ll cover:
- What does “aiding and abetting” mean legally?
- How does the prosecution prove aiding and abetting?
- What are the penalties for aiding and abetting a crime?
- Are there legal defenses for aiding and abetting charges?
What Does “Aiding and Abetting” Mean Legally?
Under Penal Code 31 PC, California law defines aiding and abetting as:
All persons concerned in the commission of a crime, whether it be felony or misdemeanor, and whether they directly commit the act constituting the offense, or aid and abet in its commission, or not being present, have advised and encouraged its commission. are principals in any crime so committed.
In simple terms, aiding and abetting means helping, encouraging, advising, or instigating the commission of a crime. The person charged as an accessory doesn’t have to be present when the crime occurs. Even if you weren’t at the scene, advising or encouraging the criminal act from a distance can lead to prosecution for aiding and abetting.
Some examples of aiding and abetting include:
- Driving a getaway car for a bank robbery
- Acting as a lookout for a burglary
- Lending money to someone to buy illegal drugs
- Providing information to help carry out an assault
- Giving advice on how to commit fraud
In the eyes of the law, an “aider and abettor” can be just as guilty as the person who directly commits the crime. Both face the same potential criminal penalties.
How Does the Prosecution Prove Aiding and Abetting?
For a prosecutor to convict you of aiding and abetting a crime in California, they must prove these elements beyond a reasonable doubt:
- Someone else directly committed a crime
- You knew the other person intended to commit the crime
- You intended to help, encourage, or facilitate the commission of the crime
- Your words or conduct did in fact aid and abet the crime
Let’s take a closer look at what each of these elements involves:
1. Someone else directly committed a crime
For you to be guilty of aiding and abetting, the prosecutor must first prove another person actually committed a specific criminal offense. If the alleged principal offender did not commit a crime, you cannot be charged as an accessory.
2. You knew of the criminal intent
The prosecution must prove you knew the other person intended to commit a crime. This means you were aware of the unlawful purpose. For example, if you thought you were just giving someone a ride and had no idea they were planning to rob a bank, you would lack the required knowledge.
3. You intended to facilitate the crime
It’s not enough that you merely knew about the planned crime. The prosecution must also show you intended to aid in its commission. This means you purposely meant to help or encourage the criminal act. If you accidentally or unknowingly gave some assistance, it would not qualify as intent.
4. Your words/conduct did facilitate the crime
Finally, the prosecutor must show your words or conduct actually helped or encouraged the commission of the offense in some way. If you intended to assist but your actions had no actual effect, you are not guilty of aiding and abetting.
Overall, being charged as an accessory requires proof you knew about the planned crime, intended to facilitate it, and took some action to help it succeed. Just being present or unknowingly assisting is not enough.
What Are the Penalties for Aiding and Abetting a Crime in California?
The punishment for aiding and abetting a crime is essentially the same as if you had directly committed the offense yourself. An accessory faces the following possible sentences depending on the crime:
- Felonies – 16 months, 2 years, or 3 years in county jail or state prison
- Misdemeanors – Up to 1 year in county jail
- Infractions – Fines up to $250
In addition, a conviction will go on your criminal record. For felonies, you may lose certain civil rights like voting and gun ownership. You will also have to disclose the conviction on job and housing applications.
Are There Legal Defenses for Aiding and Abetting Charges?
If you are accused of aiding and abetting a crime, some possible defenses include:
- You did not actually assist in the crime
- You did not know about the criminal act or intent
- You were merely present but did not help commit the crime
- You withdrew from the crime before it was committed
- You were acting under duress or coercion
An experienced criminal defense attorney can evaluate the evidence in your case and advise you on the best defense strategy. They may be able to negotiate with the prosecutor to get the charges reduced or dismissed.
Speak with a Defense Lawyer Today
Facing charges for aiding and abetting a crime can have severe consequences. But an aggressive legal defense can help protect your rights. Contact a knowledgeable criminal defense attorney to discuss your case. They can determine if your acts actually qualify as aiding and abetting under the law. With an experienced lawyer on your side, you can avoid a wrongful conviction.