19. What is “Aiding and Abetting” criminal activity?
Aiding and abetting involves providing assistance to someone accused of a crime. The assistance must relate to the criminal activity, such as assistance preparing to commit the crime, covering up the criminal activity, or evading law enforcement. This charge can be very similar to conspiracy. Under state law, the crime of aiding and abetting is often referred to as “accessory”. An individual can be an accessory before or after the commission of the crime. “Accessory before the fact” means that the individual helps in preparation of the criminal activity. “Accessory after the fact” means that the individual helps conceal or cover up the crime.
• Discussion: When should offering general support to an individual who commits a crime constitute accessory? Is a person an accessory if she knowingly provides the accused with a weapon or tools to commit a crime? What if the third party simply provides information to the accused that is useful in committing the crime? What if a person allows the accused to stay with them after learning that there is a warrant for the accused’s arrest?
• Practice Question: Hank commits a violent crime and is on the run from the police. Prior to committing the crime, he expressed to his friend, Joanna, that he needed a handgun to rob someone. Joanna, ever the loyal friend, helps him acquire the gun. After the crime is committed, Hank flees and asks his mother Edith for help in leaving the state. Edith allows Hank to take her vehicle and flee the state. Has Joanna or Edith committed crimes?