Aiding And Abetting

Los Angeles Aiding And Abetting Lawyers


Sometimes people are charged with a crime that they did not actually physically commit. The prosecutor’s theory is that they helped someone else commit the crime and therefore they are just as guilty as the person that actually did the physical act necessary to commit the crime. For example, if two people decide to rob a liquor store and one of them physically goes into the store, pulls out a gun and takes all of the clerk’s money, while the other waits outside in the car, both parties will be held responsible for the armed robbery equally. The person who goes into the store is easy to figure out because they did all of the acts necessary to be charged with the crime of robbery. The other party in the car will have to be painted by the prosecutor as the get away driver. If the prosecutor can prove that the driver knew that the other party had a gun and was going to rob the liquor store and he or she waited for them to come out and then drove them way, then he or she will be held responsible for helping the robber make his or her escape.

Of course every case is not necessarily what meets the eye. If you put a little twist on the above scenario and say that as the robber enters the liquor store, he sees someone he recognizes as an enemy and shoots them to settle a prior score, then the person in the car can not be held responsible for that shooting, because they did not know the other person would shoot the particular person and it was not foreseeable under the circumstances that something like that would happen. Foreseability is another big issue when you discuss whether someone is responsible for another’s actions. If the persons who is doing the physical acts of the crime goes beyond what is foreseeable for the get away driver (in the above situation) then the driver can not be held responsible for his actions. However, if during the course of the robbery the clerk pulls out a gun and tries to shoot the suspect and misses and hits and kills an innocent customer in the store, then both the robber and the get away driver will be charged with murder under the theory that it was foreseeable that if you go into a liquor store with a gun to commit a robbery that the clerk could be armed and could react in the way he or she did. Once you set in motion a course of conduct that leads to a death, you will likely be held responsible for the death.


Aiding and Abetting, Penal Code 31, is a common theory of criminal culpability found in criminal defense, and I have many years of experience defending this theory of responsibility. The concept of aiding and abetting is usually utilized when one party helped another commit or plan a crime, with reasonable knowledge that the other party was going to commit the crime. If that is the case, then the courts will hold that party accountable for the crime, even though they did not commit all the elements required to be charged for the full crime. In cases such as this, its useful to attack the charge by showing that the commission of the crime was not reasonably foreseeable, or that the party had no reasonable knowledge that a crime was going to be committed.


Aiding and Abetting usually is used when the prosecutors want to charge someone with a serious criminal offense. Your first move should be to sit down and strategize your case with a seasoned criminal defense attorney who is familiar with this theory of criminal liability and can best represent your interests. When you speak to your attorney, be honest and forthright, giving him or her all the facts they need to help craft a proper defense. Only when a defense attorney has all the relevant information, can they truly be effective in court and help you restore your rights. I like to make sure that when my clients leave the initial meeting they have an idea of exactly what the strategy will be moving forward, how they can assist in their own defense and what a likely outcome will be for the successful resolution of their case.

Interestingly enough, the concept of aiding and abetting is very similar to a conspiracy allegation. In a conspiracy case a group of people get together for a criminal purpose. Each person in the conspiracy will be acting towards the ultimate goal related to whatever crime they are trying to commit. The concept of conspiracy is seen a lot in drug cases where each party to the conspiracy has a job to do in order for the drug venture to be successful. Someone has to produce the drug, another person has to deliver the drugs, and then of course, there are the people making the big money who sell the drugs. All of these people are part of the conspiracy and responsible equally of the crime. Further, they are all aiding and abetting each other and will be responsible if they are caught being involved with the target crime by the authorities.

If you have a case that involves these legal concepts, you are best served to sit down with an experienced attorney who can explain if the concept applies to you and your situation. It is very easy for those people who are not legally trained and have not dealt with criminal cases for many years to become confused when it comes to the theory behind aiding an abetting and which cases it does and does not apply to. And of course there are cases where both the defense and the prosecution have arguments that a person is or is not an aidder and abettor to a crime.