If you've helped someone commit or cover up a crime, you could be charged with a crime of your own: aiding and abetting. The severity of your charge will depend on the seriousness of the crime you encouraged or helped to conceal.
Each state has its own rules on what counts as aiding and abetting and what the penalties will be. Getting a sense of some of the general basics can help you start to understand your situation and begin planning your defense.
Aiding and abetting is one of the charges you could receive if you assist, encourage, or conceal someone else's crime. It's usually less severe than being tried as an accomplice, which involves more hands-on participation in a crime.
Aiding typically refers to actions that help the crime, like financing an element of the crime, while abetting often refers more to encouraging or instigating a crime. The words are frequently used interchangeably and are usually listed together as one type of crime, regardless of whether your actions were more assisting or encouraging in nature. When trying you for this crime, the prosecution will usually need to prove factors of aiding and abetting, which could include:
If the answer to these questions is "yes," you may be convicted for aiding and abetting. Intent to help the crime is a key element in an aiding and abetting charge. If you can prove any help you provided was purely accidental, you may be able to avoid the conviction. It's important to note that you don't need to actually be there when the crime took place. If you knew about the crime before, during, or even after it happened, you could be charged with aiding and abetting.
The severity of your penalty if convicted of aiding and abetting will depend on your state, but in general, more serious crimes will lead to harsher consequences for assisting the crime. In many states, aiding and abetting in the commission of a misdemeanor could mean a year or so in prison or fines of a few thousand dollars. Aiding and abetting a felony crime could mean a couple of more years in prison and higher fines.
In order to avoid jail time, expensive financial penalties, and a criminal record, you need to build a strong defense against your aiding and abetting charge. Knowing what to do and say when charged with this crime, even in its earliest stages, can mean the difference between a conviction and an acquittal.One of the best ways to build a strong defense is to work with a criminal defense attorney who has experience in aiding and abetting charges. With their expertise, they may be able to guide and represent you for a better outcome in your trial.