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Aiding And Abetting Laws, Charges & Statute of Limitations

June 25, 2020 Federal Criminal Attorneys

Many crimes are very simple. A single person is accused of doing something wrong such as setting a fire or mugging someone. That person can be charged solely with the commission of the crime. Some crimes, however, involve more than one person. Two people might have been involved in planning to steal money from their boss. Some crimes also involve assisting others helping someone after they’ve engaged in criminal activity. Someone may be harboring a fugitive running from the law in their basement. These types of crimes are what are known as aiding and abetting. People can be charged with helping others when they know that person did something wrong legally. The person who is being charged with this violation does not have to be present at the scene of the crime to charged with engaging in this type of criminal behavior.

All defendants should bear in mind that there are many ways these laws are applied on a state by state basis. At the same time, certain general statements can be made. A person can be facing these charges if they know a crime was going to take place. They can also be charged if they knew of a crime after the fact and either helped the person who did the crime or failed to report that crime to the appropriate authorities.

The Accessory and the Principal

The laws that govern this form of crime require two parties. The first is what is known as the principal. The principal is the person who did the actual crime and took the primary role. The second person is the accessory. This is the person who may have had some role in the crime but generally stayed in the background. In order for this charge to stand up in a court of law there are three specific requirements that need to be met. The first is someone else did the crime. The second part of the requirement is that the accessory helped commit the crime in some way. The last part of this requirement is the defendant needed to know the person had the intention to commit the crime. If someone accidentally assists someone else in committing a crime, they cannot be charged with aiding and abetting.

The accused may charged with this crime if they knew before the crime was about to begin, as it was happening or when the crime was completed. Someone can be charged with being an accessory before the fact if they knew the crime was going to take place and helped once it started. A person can also be charged with being an accessory after the fact if they helped someone after they committed the crime. In many cases, people can do both actions.

Assistance can be a vague term. If someone provided information about the layout of the property, opened a door inside or drove a getaway car, all of these actions can be considered crimes. The accessory to the crime generally faces a less harsh penalty than the person who actually did the crime. However, this is not always the case. States vary when it comes to the kind of punishment given to those charged with this kind of crime. The courts will take into account the level of involvement first. Someone who simply knew of a crime and did not report it will generally face less punishment than someone who actively offered their help once it was in progress. In many instances, if someone was harmed during the commission of a crime, all those involved in some way can expect at least some form of penalty.

Statute of Limitations

Statute of limitations set forth how long a person can be charged with a crime after the crime was committed. Someone who was once involved in this kind of crime may wonder how long they might face charges. It’s best to keep in mind there are no hard and fast rules. In some places the statue might be as little as two years. In other instances, depending on the crime, there is no statue of limitations. It is a good idea to consult with a skilled lawyer if questions remain.

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