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Aiding and Abetting Criminal Charges

Posted in Criminal Defense on June 23, 2020

When people hear the term “aiding and abetting,” they may not thoroughly understand what that means. This type of charge typically means that someone was an accessory to a crime, or that they somehow assisted the person committing an offense. In many cases, a person charged with aiding and abetting is not actually present when the crime is committed, but they likely had knowledge of the crime before or after the fact. They may have even assisted in the commission of the crime. If you or someone you care about has been charged with aiding and abetting, you need to know the information below and speak to a local criminal defense attorney as soon as possible.

How Are Aiding, Abetting, and Accessory Defined?

The specific elements of an aiding and abetting crime vary from state to state. In California, this crime is defined in Penal Code 31 PC. This law states that “all persons concerned in the commission of a crime, whether it be felony or misdemeanor, and whether they directly commit the act constituting the offense, or aid and abet in its commission…are principals in any crime so committed.”

However, it is one thing to be charged with aiding and abetting a crime. It is another thing entirely to be found guilty. The prosecution in these cases needs to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that:

  • A crime was committed.
  • That the person charged intentionally aided, gave advice, commanded, procured materials for, or induced the person who committed the crime.
  • That the person charged acted with the intent to commit or facilitate the crime.
  • That the person charged acted before the crime was completed.

To be charged with accessory after the fact, the prosecution will need to prove that:

  • The accused person knew that a crime was committed.
  • The accused person assisted the person who committed the crime with hindering or preventing apprehension, trial, or punishment.


As with any alleged crime, your defense attorney will work to get the charges against you reduced or dismissed. In these cases, a “withdrawal defense” may be appropriate. That means that your attorney may attempt to show that the accused ceased their support of a crime before it became unstoppable. Even if this is not proven, any efforts a person makes to remove themselves from a crime before it takes place can certainly be used in the accused’s defense.

Other defenses to aiding and abetting charges in California can include:

  • A person was falsely accused
  • They were present when a crime was committed but had no duty to prevent it
  • The accused did not actually encourage, aid, or facilitate the commission of the crime

Penalties for PC 31 Aiding and Abetting

In California, the penalties for a Penal Code 31 PC conviction can be severe. A person accused of this crime can face the same penalties as the charges that the perpetrator of the crime faces. If a person is charged with aiding and abetting murder, they can face murder charges and life in prison.

Get Professional Help With Your Criminal Case

If you or someone you care about has been charged with aiding and abetting any crime in California, speak to a knowledgeable and experienced attorney about your case today. At the Law Offices of Graham Donath, we have extensive experience helping clients facing criminal charges throughout CA. We will investigate your case and work to get the charges against you reduced or dismissed.  Call today to schedule a free consultation (951) 667-5293 or fill out an online contact form .