Under California Penal Code 31 PC, it is a crime to facilitate or assist in the commission of a criminal act. Those found guilty of aiding and abetting another person in the commission of a crime can be held accountable for the same punishment as the one who directly committed the offense. It is not necessary that everyone involved in the commission of an offense has agreed to it beforehand; simply engaging in the offense is enough to incur liability.
Under California Penal Code 31, it is possible to be found guilty of a criminal offense even if the role you played was minor. However, this is only the case if you had some kind of involvement in the crime - mere knowledge of the crime or being present at the scene is not enough.
Under California law, aiding and abetting is not a distinct offense, but rather a concept that allows for secondary liability for those who are involved in a crime, even if they do not commit it directly. This principle is set out in the state's Penal Code.
In California, an aider and abettor of a crime can be held legally accountable for the same criminal charges as the direct perpetrator and can face the same penalties if convicted. For example, if the crime is a homicide, the aider and abettor may be given a life sentence just like the individual(s) who actually committed the killing.
An individual who did not actively participate in, assist or support the commission of a crime, falsely accused, withdrew from any involvement, had no legal obligation to prevent the crime, and only provided assistance after the crime had occurred, cannot be held responsible for aiding and abetting, and if charged, should only face penalties as an accessory after the fact.
If you did not actively participate in, assist or support the commission of a crime in any way, you cannot be held liable for aiding and abetting. There are countless scenarios in which the accusation of involvement in a crime can be misinterpreted. The crucial point is that if you did not intentionally engage in any such acts, you should be cleared of any criminal liability as an accomplice under Penal Code 31 PC.
False accusations of aiding and abetting can easily be made, as there may not be any physical evidence required to prove someone's involvement in a crime. This can happen when an individual is trying to shift blame and assign responsibility to someone else, as a way to avoid their own criminal liability.
It is important to note that even if you have knowledge that a crime is going to take place, and you do not take any action to prevent it, you cannot be held liable as an aider and abettor under Penal Code 31 unless you have a legal obligation to do so. Legal duties are rare and are only granted by specific laws. Therefore, simply being aware of the crime is not enough to convict someone as an aider and abettor.
If you have withdrawn from participation in the crime by informing the other individuals involved of your withdrawal and taking all necessary steps to prevent the crime from occurring, you can use this as a defense against charges of aiding and abetting.
If you assist in a crime after it has been committed, you are considered an accessory after the fact and not an aider and abettor. The legal consequences for being an accessory after the fact are different from those for being an accomplice, and are generally considered as "obstruction of justice." It is important to note that aiding and abetting, also known as being an accessory before the fact, is different than being an accessory after the fact.
If you are found guilty of being an accessory after the fact, the punishment is usually less severe than if you were found guilty of being an accomplice. For example, if you aid and abet in a carjacking, you will face the same punishment as the person who committed the carjacking, which could be up to 9 years in prison. However, if you are found guilty of being an accessory after the fact, the maximum penalty is three years in state prison in California.
If you are facing charges for aiding and abetting, it is recommended that you retain the services of a skilled attorney or legal firm. Reach out to us to learn about the ways in which we can assist you with your case.