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Aiding and Abetting Defense Lawyer in Los Angeles

Are you facing a charge of aiding and abetting the commission of a crime in California? These terms – aiding and abetting – are commonly used, yet most people do not understand what they actually mean, when they can lead to criminal responsibility, and what the penalty may be if a person is convicted.

Classification of the Parties to a Crime

The first issue to address is how, under the California Penal Code, a party to a crime may be classified. PC 30 says that there are two types of parties to a crime: principals and accessories. Principals include those who directly commit a criminal act, as well as those who aid or abet in the commission of the offense. Accessories, on the other hand, are persons who, after a felony has been committed, take action to aid the principal in avoiding arrest or prosecution in the commission of the felony, in an effort to have the other person escape arrest or prosecution. These people are commonly referred to as accessories after the fact.

The distinction between principals and accessories is important, particularly because of the potential penalties. Principals are punished in accordance with the statute relating to the particular crime involved. Accessories, on the other hand, usually face a wobbler, and therefore may be charged with a misdemeanor or a felony.

Examples Relating to Aiding and Abetting

In order to better understand aiding and abetting, it is helpful to utilize some examples:

  • Example 1. Your friend wants to physically assault another person. You assist your friend by luring the intended victim to a particular place where the assault takes place. You can be charged as a principal in the assault.
  • Example 2. Some people you know are planning to rob a bank (or any business, for example). They tell you they do not want you to participate in the actual robbery, i.e., going into the bank to obtain the money. Rather, they ask you to drive the getaway car so that the others can avoid being captured. Again, you can be charged with bank robbery as a principal.
  • Example 3. Someone you know commits theft by stealing a gun. The offense is a felony. You did not participate in the theft and had no prior knowledge of it. But knowing the gun was stolen, you nevertheless agree to hide the gun for the thief. You can be charged with being an accessory after the fact.

As noted above, accessory liability is a wobbler, and if convicted, you could face a felony charge.

In order to successfully prosecute a person for aiding and abetting, the prosecution must prove (see CALCRIM No. 401):

  • The offender committed the crime,
  • The person charged with being an accessory knew that the other person intended to commit the offense,
  • The accessory also intended to assist in the commission of the crime (before, during or after it was committed), and
  • The actions or words of the accessory assisted in the commission of the crime.

Assuming all these elements can be proven beyond a reasonable doubt, the prosecution does not have to show that the defendant was present during the commission of the crime in order to obtain a conviction.

Can You Withdraw and Avoid Criminal Liability Prior to the Commission of a Crime?

The answer to the question is yes, you can “back out” of the planned crime prior to its commission. The standards for withdrawal, however, are not simple. The law requires, for an effective withdrawal, that you notify everyone involved that you are not a participant. This notification must come early enough to (potentially) prevent the commission of the crime. You must also do everything within your power to prevent the crime from being committed.

While these requirements, which are set forth in CALCRIM No. 401, may appear difficult to fulfill, there are two factors that benefit the defendant in an aiding and abetting case: first, you need not actually prevent the crime from being committed; and second, the burden is on the prosecutor to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you did not withdraw.

Defense of Aiding and Abetting Charges

If you are facing a charge of aiding and abetting, you need an experienced criminal defense lawyer who understands the criminal law process, and who can take advantage of required proofs, and the burden of proof, in your case. Contact Chris Bou Saeed at CBS Law for a free consultation. Call CBS Law at (213) 800-8005

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