Updated: Dec 17, 2019
Whether it was on the evening news or your favorite courtroom drama, you've probably heard the term "aiding and abetting" a few times. But do you know exactly what it is? Learn more about the possible ways you could get in trouble, even if you didn't commit a crime.
What Is the Legal Definition? The crime of aiding and abetting refers to "a person's action to help, support or approve of someone else's illegal act." U.S. laws relating to aiding and abetting date back to 1790 and have been updated several times since.
Proving the Crime In order to convict someone of aiding and abetting a federal crime, a prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that a person not only knew about a crime that someone else perpetrated, but they also specifically assisted with some element of the crime, even in a seemingly minor way.
Accessories and Accomplices Many people often use the terms "accessory" and "accomplice" interchangeably, but there is a difference. An accessory is a person who probably isn't there when the crime is being committed but who becomes a participant either before or after the act. An accomplice intentionally assists with the illegal activity.
How to Avoid Aiding and Abetting There are several ways you can avoid becoming an accessory or an accomplice. Don't handle stolen goods. Don't hide or destroy evidence of a crime. Don't allow someone who is running from the law to stay with you, and don't give them money if they ask for it. Encourage them to turn themselves in to law enforcement, and be truthful if the police question you about the person in trouble.