Many of the crimes investigated by law enforcement and prosecuted by federal, state and local prosecutors involve activities by more than one person. Terms such as aiding and abetting, accessory and conspiracy are used to determine the degree of culpability of each person associated with specific criminal conduct. Depending upon the evidence, prosecutors can charge one or more people with committing a crime and file separate charges of conspiracy or aiding and abetting against others for assisting them.
A person engages in the crime of aiding and abetting by assisting another person who is engaging in criminal conduct. For example, a person who helps a robbery suspect hide from the police might be charged with the crime of aiding and abetting.
Some states refer to the crime of aiding and abetting as being an accessory before the fact or after the fact. An accessory before the fact is someone whose assistance to the person committing a criminal act takes place prior to the commission of the underlying crime. For instance, a person who gives a friend a key to a building knowing it will be used to commit a burglary could be charged with being an accessory before the fact.
An accessory after the fact is someone who helps another person following the commission of a crime. The individual helps a thief hide the stolen money is providing assistance after, but in furtherance of, a criminal act.
A conspiracy involves two or more people agreeing to commit an unlawful act and engage in conduct in furtherance of that unlawful act. People engaging in a conspiracy can be charged with criminal conspiracy and with the crime that was the subject of their criminal agreement.
Laws making conspiracy differ from state to state. Criminal conspiracy is described in section 15.02 of the Texas Penal Code as two or more people, entering into an agreement with the intent to commit a felony, and at least of the conspirators engages in an act in furtherance of the felony. Prosecutors can charge all of the participants with criminal conspiracy and with the underlying felony.
If the government has evidence of a criminal conspiracy, all of the co-conspirators can be charged with the crime they conspired to commit. For example, if three people plan a bank robbery, but only two of them actually go to the bank to commit it, all three could be charged with conspiracy and with the robbery. Someone assisting another person before or after the commission of the bank robbery would be charged with aiding and abetting, but because the person did not conspire to commit the robbery, criminal conspiracy would not be charged.
If you have been accused of committing criminal conspiracy or aiding and abetting, then you need legal help and fast. Schedule a free legal consultation with Rand Mintzer by calling 713-862-8880.