Helping someone else commit a crime can cause you to face criminal charges of your own. Accomplice liability, often referred to as aiding and abetting, is a legal provision that dispenses the same penalties as those that would ensue for the actual crime itself.
If you face aiding and abetting charges, a major issue in your case will be the degree of the help you provided. Many discussions of this legal issue center on the question of how much help is enough to trigger these charges.
Generally, in order to prove aiding and abetting took place, prosecutors need to show three things. First, they must prove another person committed a crime. Second, they must demonstrate the defendant assisted the crime's commission, whether by action or encouragement. Third, they must show the defendant had the legally required state of mind; for example, if a certain type of crime includes intending a particular result, someone accused of abetting that crime must also intend that same result.
Required knowledge and intent
One key point prosecutors must prove is that the defendant knew of the crime and intended to help commit it. For example, a store employee who fails to turn on the alarm system as he leaves may intend to provide access for another person to enter and rob it that night. On the other hand, he may be simply acting out of forgetfulness or oversight. In the first case, he is likely an accomplice, but not in the second case.
Common types of aiding and abetting
Some other actions courts have determined to constitute aiding and abetting include letting someone have an object with the knowledge they will use it criminally, helping criminals leave the crime scene and even verbal encouragement in the course of a physical assault.
Why you should take these allegations seriously
If you find yourself facing accomplice charges, you should understand that these are not lesser charges. You may face the same penalties as the person who committed the crime.